The following is a guest post by one of the supporters that attended the second day of the trial:
I attended court today for the first time ever to watch the 2nd day of the trial of the “Brighton9”. The morning consisted of the police officers who attended the Topshop protest on 4th December 2010 by Brighton Uncut activists being cross-examined as to the details of where the defendants were in the window, whether there was ‘anything on the floor’, and how they were arrested. There was a lot of mention of superglue tubes on the floor, but not one police officer admitted that they saw mannequins, broken or otherwise, lying on the floor, despite the prosecution desperately trying to get one officer to say what he saw on the floor “a display” “what did that consist of” “I can’t remember: coat hangers and clothes, maybe”. It was quite farcical.
My reasons for coming to watch the trial are firstly, that as a ‘member’ (UK Uncut has no ‘membership’, but people who choose to participate in actions) and supporter of UK Uncut and someone who has taken part in Brighton Uncut and London Uncut actions, I wanted to show solidarity with the activists on trial and demonstrate support for their actions. UK Uncut actions highlight the billions lost to the UK economy in legal tax avoidance, by those such as Philip Green, the owner of Topshop/Topman, BHS and others, whose company the Arcadia Group is registered as being owned by his wife in Monaco, where there is no income tax: if the rich paid the tax they owed on their businesses, there would be enough money generated that ordinary people would not need ‘austerity measures’ with vital public services being slashed and difficult lives made even worse.
Secondly, I have sympathy with trumped-up exaggerated charges of ‘criminal damage’ by unscrupulous shop managers seeking to exploit peaceful protests. On 30th January this year, I took part in a sit-in in Boots The Chemist in Oxford Street with London Uncut, to highlight Boots’ Company Registration in Switzerland, which conveniently means they avoid paying tax in the UK. The well-publicised peaceful sit-in was permitted by the police, much to the annoyance of Boots security. After leaving the store and demonstrating outside several other tax-dodging shops in Oxford Street such as BHS, Topshop and Vodafone, the group returned to the store to carry on demonstrating outside. UK Uncut had produced several leaflets highlighting Boots’ tax avoidance, and many of these had been dropped by passers-by littering the pavement. Being a green-minded person, I picked up these leaflets, and put them through a gap in the door of Boots. The security in Boots then told the police to arrest me for criminal damage as the rubber seal had come off the door. I was then arrested for the first (and so far only) time in my life, and, after a fellow activist had physically tried to ‘de-arrest’ me against my will, many people got sprayed in the face with CS gas by the police, I was taken to a police station and held for 8 hours, interviewed and released at 11:45pm on bail. My case was dropped without charge a day before I was due to return for bail, as, guess what, it’s not actually a criminal offence to put leaflets through a gap in a door.
Ridiculous charges such as mine, the aggressive prosecution on charges of ‘aggravated trespass’ against those UK Uncut activists who peacefully sat in Fortnum and Mason on March 26th, and those against Brighton Uncut activists with no evidence are just a few examples of attempts by those avoiding tax to prosecute peaceful protestors for highlighting injustice, as they want to deter others from such actions, because they can see that they are producing results. MPs are calling an enquiry into tax avoidance and it is a cause that the majority of the public supports. This frightens them. Well, their actions will not be a deterrent: it will make us more determined to use peaceful protest to highlight this injustice and demand a fair society where multi-billionaires pay the tax they owe and contribute to UK public services, like the rest of us.
Well done to the Brighton 9 for the publicity this case has generated. Hope to join you on further actions.