UK Uncut secret occupation revealed as Fortnum & Mason
3.30pm – UK Uncut occupy Fortnum & Mason and aim to stay for as long as possible
UK Uncut groups from across the country transformed banks and shops on Oxford Street into hospitals, libraries and theatres with Sam West, Josie Long and Mark Thomas performing.
UK Uncut, the anti-cuts direct action group, are currently occupying Fortnum & Mason over the tax dodge of over 40 million by its owners Whittington Investments which have a 54% stake in Associated British Foods who produce Ryvita, Kingsmill and others and own Primark. ABF have dodged over £40 million in tax. Over 500 activists congregated on Oxford Circus from the march and from Oxford Street where they had been transforming tax dodging retailers such as Vodafone, Boots and BHS where actors Sam and Timothy West performed and Soho Square where comedians Josie Long and Mark Thomas performed stand up comedy gigs.
The activists left Oxford Circus at 3:30 reaching Fortnum & Mason by 4 PM. They are vowing to stay for as long as possible in the shop where there will be music, speeches and games.
Up to a quarter of a million people from across the country joined the march in protest at the government’s failure to pursue alternatives to unprecedented cuts in public spending. During and after the march, activists from UK Uncut turned banks and tax-dodging stores on Oxford Street into hospitals, libraries and homeless shelters to point out that these services don;t need to be cuts by the government if they instead chose to clamp down on tax avoidance and making banks contribute more.
Sally Mason, a UK Uncut supporter from Manchester who is currently occupying Fortnum & Mason said:
"We weren't just going to march from A to B and be ignored, people are prepared to take civil disobedientt action because they are angry at the unfairness of these cuts. Fortnum & Mason is a symbol of wealth and greed. It is where the Royal Family and the super-rich do their weekly shop and a picnic hamper costs £25,000. This sits in stark contrast to everyone else who is struggling to make ends meet, fill in their tax returns and benefits forms, and face huge student debts, unemployment and the closure or dismatling of their local services that we need and depend on such as the NHS, libraries and leisure centres.
"We are not all in this together - the government, big business such as ABF, banking sector and the wealthy who shop here are in it together and are choosing to make everyone else pay the price for the banks greed and wreckless gambling. The government is making a political choice to turn a blind eye to the tax dodging of big business and reward the banks' mistakes with the bail out and bonuses and instead cut child, housing and disability benefits as well as decimating the Welfare State.
"Civil disobedience has a long tradition of driving forward progressive change and we are here to send a powerful message that we are angry at the government's choice to protect the rich and punish the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. It's society that's too big to fail, not the broken banking sector. There is an alternative through clamping down on tax avoidance and making the banks pay for their crisis, the government is just choosing to ignore it and that is not fair or right."