I’m sure many of us who were on Sunday’s UKUncut demonstrations were worried about what kind of press coverage our efforts had received. Creating a spectacle on Oxford Street on a Sunday afternoon is one thing, but to get any campaign off the ground you need the help of one thing: the media.
There were plenty of them there too! From our Boots hospital we could see the many photographers and camera men trying to get a shot of our action and we were more than happy to pose for the occasion. Not even turning off the lights or shutting the front door (where most of the press were waiting) could stop us from demanding that we had our chance to speak to the nation and soon enough, we did.
As I walked out of that entrance I knew that this would end up on the news somewhere. I have never walked out to the cameras of the public media before, but I now certainly know how those people on the news feel when surrounded buy the press. Well the goodies at least. Knowing that the the lenses all represent a multitude of eyes that will be able to see and hear your message just as loud as those who are sitting inches from you on that cold concrete floor is definitely an empowering position to be in.
Unfortunately, the demonstration hit the news for reasons that none of us wanted it to. Rather than speaking about tax avoiders, the headlines all spoke about the use of CS spray against peaceful protestors.
Don’t get me wrong, it is an important issue. What a sad state of affairs it is when the police you rely upon for protection turn on you with weapons (that is what it was after all) for simply calling into question the legitimacy of their arrest. But it is even sadder that they are allowed to make this the focus of coverage, rather than the real issue: tax avoiders. And even sadder still when many in the media drag their heels before reporting on the incident. I highly doubt we would have seen anything more than a cursory mention on the BBC News website if protestors hadn’t come to harm, even then it took far too long.
There was a saving grace however. A platform where UKUncut was given the ability to show what it really does in an accurate way. This platform came from BBC Newsnight (and fatratfilms.co.uk) who produced a short film explaining about the creation of UKUncut and followed protestors during Sunday’s demonstration. The camera doesn’t lie and it painted a compelling picture here.
And let us not forget the power of private cameras. Here someone was able to catch officer CW2440 CS spraying protestors and the lead up to his actions. A fellow police officer telling him to put it away is also clearly audible.
Sunday was a mix of emotions and adrenalin. What is important is how we look back on it – hopefully it will be a profound step on the road to closing down the loopholes tax avoiders use.