UKUncut: A different type of action

Come along to a UKUncut action and you would assume that you’ll spend most of your time trying to get into the space of tax avoiding businesses that are more than aware you are on your way and have probably hired a number of security personnel for the day or decided shutting would be much easier. Sometimes you will get in, other times you’ll have to enact Plan B and occupy the pavement outside (no doubt they will still shut).

Today’s Tower Hamlets Uncut action certainly didn’t follow this usual model however. Starting at Canary Wharf we did a tour of Canada Square’s biggest contributors to the global economic crisis and some of the biggest tax avoiders. We had talks outside Lehman Brothers’ old headquarters, expressed our solidarity with USUncut outside the Bank of America who paid $0 in tax last year and visited our old friends Barclays who are not only tax avoiders, but also investors in the arms industry.

There was chanting, singing, accounts about where money is being taken away from Tower Hamlets – but strangely for a UKUncut protest, no occupation. We joked that all the revolving doors were locked before we got to each of our targets, but even when one company hadn’t locked a door fast enough, we didn’t really care to enter. In fact, we had to interrupt one the speeches to chant “Let him in” when someone was being forced to wait until we moved on before being allowed to attend the meeting they were already late for.

With the on going case against 138 occupiers of tax avoiders and luxury grocers Fortnum and Mason, perhaps this non-intrusive form of UKUncut action will become a much more popular style of demonstrating against tax avoiders. It is informative, funny and dowsn’t have the same ‘piss-off’ appeal as occupying can do. As Tim Hardy points out, the police are being given the go ahead to deal with UKUncut protests as they see fit and we must assume this could include further arrests under the aggravated trespass laws. Whilst there were lots of Police and Canary Wharf security following our action today, it was obvious that they were at a bit of a loose end when they realised the most provocative we would get would be singing a round of Build a bonfire.

Our charismatic tour guide, Liam, a Tower Hamlets school teacher, had also changed the lyrics to a couple of well known songs to celebrate the advent of the financial new year. Our tour ended with us forming a large circle and linking arms in New Years style to sing Liam’s version of Auld Lang Syne in the shadow of 1 Canada Square, prompting several passers by to approach and ask about what we were doing.

I would personally continue to occupy shops and banks, but it is brilliant to see that there is a different type of UKUncut action out there would appeal to our growing number of supporters (Liam had only printed out 15 copies of his song – far too little for the 40 people who attended) as well as those who no longer see occupation as the right form of action for them.

This is far from over, but it might look very different by the end.


Auld Lang Syne

Should tax avoidance be forgot,

And never brought to mind,

Should tax avoidance be forgot,

Unfairness you will find.


For Schools and hospitals, my dear

For pensions and home care,

For EMA and libraries,

Just pay your bloody share.

We wish you a happy tax year

We wish you a happy tax year,

We wish you a happy tax year,

we wish you a happy tax year,

Just pay some next year!


Bad tidings we bring,

To offshore banking,

We wish you a happy tax year,

Just pay some next year!

UKUncut: A different type of action

2 thoughts on “UKUncut: A different type of action

    1. Not sure that there were 80 people, but perhaps there was more than the 40 that I estimated. Nevertheless this was a large number for a UKUncut action, especially one held on a weekday evening!

      Thank you for linking to those pictures by the way.

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