oxford street workfare protests this morningTagged as: cuts jobs ukuncut workfare
Neighbourhoods: oxford_street west_end
a few dozen protestors targetted a range of high street outlets at lunchtime today, highlighting the businesses that exploit workfare labour, paying nothing for workers forced into modern slavery under threat of losing benefits. police attempted to stop activists from entering any of the businesses in a cat and mouse game over a couple of hours.
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at 11.30 this morning a group of protestors assembled outside the bhs store in oxford street and listened to some opening speeches. shortly before noon, two black and white 'BW' (boycott workfare) flags led the way to the first target of the day, while a dozen or so police ran alongside trying to second guess which shops would be hit.
the first target was a pizza hut, where the crowd, with numbers gradually swelling, blocked the entrance to the shop with banners and their bodies, while an open mic allowed people to explain the issues to passers-by. loads of leaflets were also handed out throughout the actions.
after about ten minutes, the group moved on. police were consulting their own maps of possible targets, with some officers running along to the next one at each stage.
passing the holland & barrett shop, where two officers were already stationed, the next protest was at mcdonalds, where a handful of protestors entered but were swiftly ejected by police. the white flags set off again east quite soon, and police ran ahead, but suddenly the crowd turned back and this time managed to get a few more activists into the same mcdonalds branch. police were quite heavy-handed protecting the business and once again robustly ejecting any of the peaceful demonstrators from inside, as well as man-handling an impromptu sit-down at the entrance.
after a few minutes there, the group set off west again, this time stopping at holland & barrett, and then breaking into a run, which a few of the cops seemed to find quite challenging. indeed, getting ahead, a few activists managed to enter the pizza hut which was revisited and closed for a while once more.
next, the flaggers headed west again, apparently passing the 'plaza mall', but in another twist, suddenly people ran into this shopping centre, aiming for another pizza hut outlet. a couple of police lashed out indiscriminately at the front of the crowd, and it got a bit messy for a while. despite the fact that the ukuncut and boycott workfare protests have continually proved to have peaceful intent, it's disappointing that some of the cops are so quick to resort to violence just to protect the corporate businesses that are shafting us all. others, however are clearly quite sanguine about it, and my own experience is that more and more police are willing to express their own doubts and disillusionment - something which used to be far more rare.
onwards to the west of oxford circus, and an attempt on a mcdonalds there was thwarted by an advance police presence. the crowd by now had also swelled to around a hundred.
once again, the white flags led the way, this time to the north, away from oxford street. the next target turned out to be the welbeck street holiday inn, where we heard of their past practice of hiring precarious migrant workers, who had to put up with very poor conditions and wages under the threat that they'd be shopped to the authorities if they didn't accept the abuse. now, the same chain is using the free labour provided by government welfare schemes. a few protestors had managed to enter the hotel ahead of the main crowd. after police crowded the steps of the entrance, these protestors were once again literally thrown out of the hotel and pushed down the steps into the crowd.
there were some final speeches, and a smaller crowd headed off along oxford street while most split up and went their different ways.
despite the police violence, there didn't appear to have been any arrests today.
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