Barclay's Bank is facing accusations of running scared from peaceful protest after a central London branch closed early in an apparent attempt to avoid an act of worship planned by Christians opposed to the government's cuts.
A group of Christians planned peacefully to enter the branch and offer biscuits to staff and customers while praying, reading the Bible and singing hymns as a witness against the injustices of the banking system.
But when they arrived at the bank on Tottenham Court Road at 2.00pm today (26 March), they found the bank already closed. The bank's Saturday opening hours, displayed next to the door, are usually 10.00am to 4.00pm.
The group Christians Against the Cuts are inspired by Jesus' example of protesting against the moneychangers and traders in the Jerusalem Temple, who were exploiting the poor. Their action was part of today's protests against the government's cuts.
Chris Wood, one of the participants, told Ekklesia that he believes the closure of the bank demonstrates "that Barclay's are afraid to acknowledged their complicity in an economic system that sees the rich grow richer while the poorest and most vulnerable are faced with unprecedented welfare cuts as a result".
Barclay's have faced criticism for using legal means to pay less than two percent corporation tax on their profits. A number of groups, including the nonviolent network UK Uncut, say that cracking down on tax avoidance by wealthy corporations is one of several alternatives to cutting jobs, benefits and public services.
Wood insisted that "the banks, with their reckless speculation and lending and their encouragement of excessive consumption have created an economic catastrophe that is having a devastating impact on our society". He said that banks should be held accountable for their contribution to "public spending cuts that this government is presenting as a fait accompli".