UK Uncut HSBC action 7th Jan 2012
Saturday 7th January was a big action organised by UK Uncut Liverpool and supported by Occupy Liverpool, Anonymous Liverpool and Solfed. It was being filmed by Current TV (sky 183, virgin 155) and will be shown on 30th January.
The target was decided to be HSBC bank. This bank was not directly bailed out by the government which I actually believe to be a strength of actions against this bank and Barclay's. The public are already very aware about the bailouts and are quite rightly very angry about it but this has also served to cover up the other atrocities carried out by the bankers.
HSBC is a big tax avoider, they offset losses from the financial crisis to avoid paying tax. Tax avoidance is legal, but I believe it is morally wrong. If a company is operating and making money in the UK it should contribute through tax to the UK.
HSBC were also found out to be profiteering on the NHS and were found to be charging £210 to fit a simple electrical socket. Profits from this private company (set up by HSBC) were then sent to overseas tax havens. So not only were HSBC ripping tax payers off, they were then avoiding tax on the profit. The company made £38million and paid £100k tax (that is less than half a percent of the profit)!
UK Uncut tackle tax avoiding companies in the UK. They carry out direct actions such as occupations with often entertaining and creative themes, such as setting up makeshift hospitals or libraries in banks or tax avoiding companies to highlight the direct link between avoided tax and public sector cuts. UK Uncut legal are also taking HMRC and tax avoiders to court to retrieve avoided tax.
Street actions are great for informing the public and raising awareness and in some cases the banks/shops close which also directly impacts the corporations. Obviously the legal branch of Uncut follow other paths to tackle these tax avoiders.
I believe the action was really successful, despite the bank locking the doors with only 2 protesters and a reporter inside (and one protester came outside to take pictures), the bank decided to close just after 13:00 and remained closed. There were large numbers of protesters outside with banners, flags and placards and large crowds began to gather.
The public were generally really supportive and were applauding speakers on megaphones and shaking protesters hands and congratulating them. It is worth noting the seemingly unavoidable disgruntled would-be customers complaining about the bank being shut, and the conveniently placed 'Unfortunately we are closed due to the current protest until further notice' sign showed them exactly where to direct their anger. This also gave the protesters an opportunity to counter argue and inform the 'customers' about HSBC corruption.
Direct action resulting in shop closure is often criticised as inconveniencing the public but I fully support this form of direct action and believe the benefits to far outweigh the cost of minor public inconvenience.
As the HSBC closed (officially) at 15:00 protesters seized the opportunity of publicity and a large crowd ran from HSBC to Topshop, another Uncut target (Philip Green's Arcadia empire). Again the staff decided to close the store whilst the protest was going on and there was a stand-off with protesters, police and security guards. A huge crowd gathered at the doors and windows and police threatened arrest by aggravated trespass if the protesters did not leave. Some protesters tried to leave but were locked in and police under pressure (and on camera) gave the all clear to unlock the doors. Protesters left to applause from the crowd and explained what went on.
Protesters continued to talk to the crowd about tax avoiding companies and how the police seem to protect the corporations over the people. The police attempted to 'kettle' the crowd and the protesters, so a march started through Liverpool. Protesters stopped and talked about various tax avoiding companies and injustices on a 'corporate scum tour of Liverpool'. Members of the public, curious about what was going on, joined in as the march chanted and shouted around L1 and up Bold Street, stopping at tax avoiders such as Natwest bank, Vodafone and Tesco. The police were mocked as they failed to control the crowd and followed sheepishly behind as the group entered shops and did a conga line around a Tesco store. The police eventually gave up to save face.
As the group came back down Church St Vodafone again closed its shutters (for the second time that day) and security guards were very aggressive to protesters including threats of violence. The group continued to the nearby Boots (another tax avoider and Uncut target) where several protesters made it inside. The security guards from earlier ran in and started violently removing protesters, despite warnings they were being filmed they continued attacking peaceful protesters including a pregnant woman. A fair number of protesters where injured. Read more here
When the police arrived they obviously attempted to arrest protesters and ignore any video evidence or offers of statements from passers by. Three protesters were arrested as was one security guard.
All in all I believe it was a very successful day as there was massive public support with the public joining in. HSBC, Topshop, Vodafone (2 stores, and one store twice), Tesco and Natwest all locked their doors and closed for some period of time. This demonstrates people power to not only the corporations but to the members of the public involved. In a world ruled by fear of false authority these victories will show the public where the real power lies and hopefully many of them will join in on future protests and actions.
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