New campaign backs Fortnum & Mason protesters

By staff writers
April 12, 2011

A campaign has been launched to defend the "Fortnum & Mason 145" - the people who were arrested last month after peaceful direct action in central London.

145 people are expecting to appear in court shortly for their part in occupying Fortnum & Mason, a luxury food store in Piccadilly. They were protesting against what they regard as the company's complicity in tax avoidance.

The occupation was one of several protests on 26 March, a day which saw between 250,000 and 500,000 people march through London against the government's cuts agenda. While there were isolated incidents of violence outside Fortnum & Mason after the occupation began, the majority of those inside insist that they are committed to behaving nonviolently.

Despite media discussion of violence on the day, the peaceful protesters comprise the majority of those formally charged by the police. This marks a change of tactic for the police, who have dealt with most previous occupations by removing protesters and only arresting them if they try to go back inside.

At the time of the occupation, a police spokesperson in the building described the protesters as "sensible" and "nonviolent". Fortnum 145 argue that this reality has been obscured by "unfair and biased media reporting" of the protest.

"We've been part shocked, part amused, by the awful media coverage of the events of that day," says a statement published on the Fortnum 145 website, "Media spin about violence and attacks has been undermined by footage actually taken inside the store".

Many of those involved are supporters to UK Uncut, which has used similar tactics to draw attention to tax avoidance by wealthy corporations. They suggest that cracking down on "corporate tax-dodging" is an alternative to heavy cuts.

The sit-in at Fortnum & Mason was one of several peaceful occuapations on 26 March. A group of Christian activists planned to hold an act of worship in Barclay's Bank on the Tottenham Court Road, in protest at the injustices of the banking system. But the bank had already been closed, apparently to avoid protests.

UK Uncut accuse Associated British Foods - which is majority-owned by Fortnum & Mason's parent company Whittington Investments - of avoiding over £40million in tax.


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