On Monday of last week I wrote an article for the Verso website about the violence on March 26th. In it I wrote that ‘the UK Uncut movement has been handily confused in some people’s minds with the Black and Red groups — something that must have been high on the Metropolitan police’s list of Things to Do’.
In the days after the protest the right-wing press was falling over itself trying to conflate the occupiers of Fortnum and Mason and those breaking windows on Piccadilly. In an article published online in the Daily Mail on the day after the protest, Ian Gallagher and George Arbuthnott wrote that:
Some were hellbent on storming – or destroying – any London landmarks synonymous with luxury or money. Others targeted companies associated with tax avoidance. Hundreds laid siege to The Ritz hotel, attacking it with paint and smokebombs. A Porsche showroom was also smashed up and upmarket department store Fortnum & Mason was occupied by about 1,000 activists.
In the Evening Standard on Tuesday 29th, Justin Davenport, their crime editor, wrote that:
More than 200 people were arrested and 56 police officers injured when violence flared during the TUC March for the Alternative. Hundreds laid siege to The Ritz hotel, attacking it with paint and smoke bombs, while hundreds more occupied Fortnum & Mason.
Both articles, full of the usual references to ‘sinister-looking thugs’ and quotes from friendly police officers, failed to make an elementary distinction between the people occupying Fortnum and Mason and the people attacking property. The former were committed to non-violent protest and were all thrown in jail. The latter were largely left to go about their photogenic business unmolested by the forces of law and order. It is a shame that a crime editor also failed to note the long history of police infiltration, and manipulation, of protest groups.
On April 3rd the Sunday Express reported the claims of some unnamed protesters:
The demonstration at Fortnum and Mason against tax avoidance and evasion is transformed from being a UK Uncut event into “phase one” of a “plot” to disrupt the Royal Wedding and to do something unspeakable to May Day. The police must be delighted with their work.
And yet … If the police were really concerned about criminal behaviour they would be cheering UK Uncut on. Britain’s lax approach to financial regulation is turning London into one of the most important centres for money-laundering in the world. According to Martin Woods, a former policeman and the man who blew the whistle on massive criminal activity at Wachovia, a large American bank:
New York and London have become the world’s two biggest laundries of criminal and drug money, and offshore tax havens. Not the Cayman Islands, not the Isle of Man or Jersey. The big laundering is right through the City of London and Wall Street.
The police are busy locking up the one group in civil society that is drawing attention to this problem.