London Oxford St Topshop Shut in Ukuncut Action

Tagged as: arcadia cuts social_struggles solidarity topshop ukuncut vodafone workers_struggles
Neighbourhoods: oxford_street westminster

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Protests at Topshop and other shops owned by tax evaders, Oxford Street, London, Saturday 4th December 2010

When this government let Vodafone get away with not paying a £6bn tax bill earlier this year they sent a very clear message to UK citizens: we are not all in this together. Ordinary people must accept savage public spending cuts, whilst rich corporations can avoid paying billions and billions in tax.

Sir Philip Green - owner of Topshop (and other Arcadia Group stores Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Miss Selfridge) transfers profits to his wife - tax-resident in Monaco - as dividends. In 2005 alone she received £1.2bn, avoiding paying a penny of that in UK tax. UK Uncut have called for protests in response.


11.20am. As part of around 23 decentralised actions across the country London's Oxford Street Top Shop has been shut down by over one hundred UKuncut protestors.

People gathered inside the store shortly before 11am. Security began physically throwing out press or anyone with 'big lenses' whilst a sit down was held, stickers saying "this item is free"  were plastered about, and chants rang out

[See timeline | Background article | Previous vodafone action reports 1 | 2]

Pic by Sunny Hundal

Pic UKUncut

- "Where did all our money go? He sneaked it off to Monaco"

- "If you want to sell your clothes, pay your tax!"

- "We voted Lib Dem, look at what we got from them: Cuts, job losses, money for the bosses"

Soon and the shop was closed down and a line of police formed outside. Plenty of other targets still out there :)


Follow and hashtag #ukuncut for more reports.

[pics: sunny hundal ukuncut banner pic]

VIDEO: inside topshop oxford circus (amelia gregory)

Other pics:

jono warren

more at

GuyAitchison: Sgt Smelley guarding Topshop



went to vodaphone, tried to shut the road for a bit, now back to top shop

good crowd of 300-400

lots of police and lots of undercover police and security

12.40 update: Vodafone stores shut

12.40 ameliagregory: Vodafoneuk on regent street and oxford street closed #ukuncut

Police arrive belatedly

Crowd outside vodafone

Oxford street blocked + UCL Occupation banner

top shop doors blocked

top shop doors blocked by about 150 people sitting down, no one getting in or out

PCS Union Statement

Moral and economic case for tax justice 'unarguable'

4 December 2010

Responding to today's protests by anti-tax avoidance campaigners UK Uncut, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

"People are rightly angry that the government is targeting the most vulnerable in our society with massive cuts in spending, and yet it appears to be very relaxed about rich and powerful tax dodgers.

"We have campaigned for two years for action to be taken to tackle the billions of pounds in tax lost to our economy every year because wealthy individuals and organisations avoid paying what they owe.

"The moral and economic case, particularly at a time when we are told action needs to be taken to bring down the budget deficit, is unarguable.

"Justice in our tax system, alongside investment in our public services, provide the alternative to the government's ideological attack on people's livelihoods and our communities."

Which side are you on?

Did you know that War on Want and the Jubilee Debt Campaign have supported the UKuncut actions and demos?

13.35 Police dragging people away

out from the sit down blockade of top shop ox st.

Reports from ukuncut day

Pics + Video

Birmingham, Sat 4th Dec 2010

In Birmingham, around 15 protesters shut down Topshop, BHS, Vodafone and Burtons in protest against an alleged tax avoidance of £300 million by Philip Green, who is to be made a government advisor as part of the cuts programme. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, apart from security guards in the Bull Ring shopping centre forcibly removing protesters by carrying & dragging them outside, and also physically forcing the press to stop taking photographs & removing them from the premises. Protesters moved from Topshop in the Bull Ring, which they had already infiltrated before the official action started, to BHS, Vodafone and finally Burtons. They chanted, handed out leaflets and explained to members of the public their reasons for demonstrating. The day of action ended peacefully, with the protesters heading off to the pub with an unintentional police escort.
— Stop Cuts Brum

Brighton, Sat 4th Dec 2010

My family and I were taking a stroll through Brighton on Saturday afternoon, along Western Road we observed a large police presence. I had no idea that there was a protest on, however my 65 year old father in law explained what it was about and we all agreed that it was a fair enough reason to get out on the streets and get people in the know. We got curious and noticed that 20 – 30 protesters were surrounded by an agitated group of police. It was quite a shock to see the police being so aggressive towards what looked to be mostly peaceful protestors. We noticed that the windows of Topman had been covered up. We got more curious and asked what was going on. One of policemen outside the front of the store explained to us that some individuals had glued their hands to the windows, that they were stupid idiots and that the police planned to take as much time as possible so that they would be in a lot of pain when they were unstuck. He also enjoyed telling us that it would be funny when they needed the loo. My father in law, noticed that the police had moved away from one part of the window and decided that he wanted to have a look behind the paper on the window. He took down two pieces from the window, revealing two glued people, I guess he has the view that people have the right to be seen and heard. Two policemen came over and stopped him and he was arrested, taken into custody for 11 hours and cautioned for obstructing the police. I am still in shock that somebody can be arrested for taking down two sheets of paper from a window, which I witnessed being put up by the store manager. there were no police within at least two metres of him. I saw no obstructing other than that of police obstructing people’s right to freedom of speech. Before today I hadn’t heard of your cause, now I have. Protesting does make a difference, people do hear and care.
— Glen McPheat

Cambridge, Sat 4th Dec 2010

As part of a national day of action against tax avoidance, around 25 students from the Cambridge occupation protested today at Topshop. The action, which took place at the Topshop in Grand Arcade, highlighted the hypocrisy of Topshop CEO Philip Green, who is avoiding millions of pounds of taxes while advising the Tory government to cut public services.
— Cambridge Defend Education

Leeds, Sat 4th Dec 2010

I am new to all of this protest malarkey. I'm not a student, and haven't been for around 20 years; I work in the voluntary sector; I have a child. The only campaigning I've done can be traced to the pile of letters I've written to MPs over the years, and petitions signed. I heard about the Vodafone protests last month and the more I read about tax avoidance, the angrier I became. I feel very passionately that the "austerity measures" the government have introduced impact unfairly on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. To an ordinary person like me the argument is logical - huge corporations and rich individuals can and should pay all of their tax, so services, libraries, museums, police, school kids, etc don't have to suffer. I'll give you an example - I run a project that recruits volunteers to support socially isolated older people. I've spoken to elderly folk recently who've already had their council run day care services hiked up from around £8 a day to £30 a day. This is because of the cuts the councils have already had to implement, and there are more to come. A lot of older people are now not attending day care because they can't afford it. A lot of these people are alone and, during this week of extreme weather, are counting how many slices of bread they have left until the ice clears. And many of them probably don't even realise their annual pension increase will be calculated using a different rate of inflation that, over a period of years, robs them of money they would otherwise have had. That is just one example - there are thousands more. There are a number of campaigns and coalitions cropping up all over the country, and we've all seen young people take action against increased fees, cuts to uni funding and the abolition of EMA. I'm not interested in the media's focus on violence; it's the thousands of young people who are standing up for themselves and making their voices heard that make me feel proud. The Leeds demo outside Top Shop was civilised and witty. We sang a version of the "12 Days Of Christmas" that lists the various things that could be paid for by Philip Green's profiteering - hostpital beds, fire engines, head teachers. I brought bells. My friends and I handed out leaflets to shoppers and tried to talk to people about why we were protesting. Some stopped to listen, others bustled past hurriedly. We spoke to a few police officers to ask if they knew why we were protesting. An officer replied, "Yes, it's the students". Being in our 40s and 50s we laughed - we most certainly don't look like students. These officers were willing to hear us out, so we explained - we are campaining against the public spending cuts as whole, including cuts to the police force. We believe tax avoidance should be addressed as an alternative to these cuts. A couple of officers didn't want to talk to us and their expressions made it clear they thought we were a bunch of idiots. This really concerns me, and having seen footage of what looks like unjustified force being used on other protesters in the UK, I am uneasy about how we are perceived and treated. I was also heckled by a passing shopper who angrily said to me "You'll regret it - turning socialist". Actually , I voted Lib Dem - I definitely regret that. This was an eye-opener. Protesters are stereotyped, and this gets in the way of being heard. At the end of the day that's all we are doing - fighting what the government are imposing and trying to make our voices heard. We didn't vote for them, and we didn't sign up for what they are doing. But sometimes it feels like pissing in the wind. Nick Clegg is in the news again, patronising us all. 'I was a student once as well. It's great going on demos and really having a crack at the government of the day' - he isn't listening, and I find his arrogance astonishing. Perhaps we are fighting a losing battle. Perhaps we are pissing in the wind. Personally I can keep pissing indefinitely - we must stick together and make our voices heard.
— Maria Spadafora

London, Sat 4th Dec 2010

At 10.55am, noting the large police and security presence, I walked into Top Shop’s flagship store in Oxford Circus. After a few minutes of pretending to be interested in expensive jeans and shirts made in sweatshops, I heard the whistles. People converged just inside the store, shouting “pay your tax!” and banging saucepans, while minor scuffles broke out as journalists were (wo)manhandled by security – Laurie Penny was carried out by four guards...
— The Boiling Kettle

So it seems Boots was closed in Oxford Street, along with Dorothy Perkins. And there was a mass sit-down protest outside Top Shop. Today was December 4th…. a day of action against tax cheats! Great atmosphere, vibrant, lively, loud, dynamic with young people leading the struggle...
— Harpy Marx

Me and my 23 month old son, Edgar, came down to Top Shop today. Absolutely brilliant! I'm self employed, I'm always being chased up by HMRC to ay my taxes on time.Of course its a pain but I do it. My taxes paid for my uni education, it wasn't 'free', but Edgar when he grows up will have to pay his taxes and goodness knows what on fees. Philip Green is a spiv and a crook, today felt good, we were hurting him in the one place he hates to feel the pain, in his pocket.
— Mark and Edgar

These brilliant protests on tax-dodging can unite us all

What a clever, well-targeted protest. When the whistle blew and the protesters emerged from among milling shoppers perusing handbags and hats, it took just a few hundred people to shut down Philip Green's flagship branch of Topshop, in London's Oxford Street – and 22 other stores in his empire around the country. Summoned by Twitter, the UK Uncut movement brings together an instant army, peaceful, good-natured and witty in its songs and chants. For a while they stopped Green's tills ringing on the year's busiest shopping Saturday.
— Polly Toynbee

We shut down the tax dodgers' stores - and the shoppers supported us
Some shoppers stopped buying, and sat with us on the pavement. Others cheered us as they walked past, or came up to express their quiet support. And one fantastic man bought a vast pile of pizzas to feed us all as we sat in the doorway to Top Shop....
— Adam Ramsey

Saturday's UK Uncut Topshop protest: The Mass Day of Direct Action
At 11.02am, someone blew a whistle, the action began, and the abundance of security they'd drafted in for the day launched on us. I was swiftly handed a bunch of A4 signs to hand out, and soon after I was pushed out by security. I went limp, so three of them had to drag me out. I waited five seconds, then went back in for another go....
— Chris Coltrane

UK Uncut Direct Action against the cuts

account of action day

Saturday's UK Uncut Topshop protest: The Mass Day of Direct Action.

I've spent most of the past month in the company of anti-cuts activists. I've been to Vodafone protests, student occupations, marches, and political comedy nights where people are all saying the same thing: this government's policies place ideology over practicality; the Lib Dems have betrayed us; the government are lying when they say that we're all in this together; there *is* an alternative.

When you're always surround by people who passionately hold the same beliefs as you, it can be hard to judge the true mood of the nation. Are people really on our side? Or are we activists just experiencing positive feedback from each other's opposition to the cuts? After this week, I have no doubt at all how people feel. For example, working part time at my old employer gives me access to plenty of non-political people, and almost all of them are on the side of the students. They didn't like the protest violence, but they hate police violence even more. If smashing up Tory HQ lost the students any sympathy, it was won back in abundance when people saw the policeman punching that kid in the face.

More recently, yesterday was the mass day of action against tax avoidance, organised by UK Uncut. At the first demo, where we shut down Vodafone, we had over 50 people. Four days later, when we did it again, we got about a hundred protesters involved. This time, we had well over two hundred in London alone, with actions taking place all over the country. We all met inside Top Shop at 11am, pretending to be shoppers. It was so funny to see young guys on their own feigning interest in jewellery and dresses. I recognised friends and familiar faces, and failed to resist the temptation to greet them. It pains me greatly to admit to myself: I could never be a spy.

At 11.02am, someone blew a whistle, the action began, and the abundance of security they'd drafted in for the day launched on us. I was swiftly handed a bunch of A4 signs to hand out, and soon after I was pushed out by security. I went limp, so three of them had to drag me out. I waited five seconds, then went back in for another go. Thorpe Park should consider making a ride based around non-violent direct action, it'd be a hit. Eventually, I was thrown outside the store permanently. Guards lined up to block the entrance, still with hundreds of protesters inside. The chaos was phenomenal. Over the course of half an hour, they got all the protesters out onto the street, where, surrounded by press at all angles, we chanted, made noise, and handed out leaflets telling people about Sir Philip Green's extraordinary tax avoidance.

The most interesting thing was that shoppers were, predominantly, on our side. Some people were annoyed that they couldn't go shopping. Many more were annoyed that rich people were actively preventing their kids from having nice schools and libraries. Passers-by actually joined the sit-in. Random people bought us huge deliveries of pizza, of coffee and hot chocolate, and plenty of snacks. The kindness of strangers was touching, and inspirational.

Incidentally, I'd like to offer my sincere thanks to the police for lining up outside both entrances of Topshop, thus shutting down the store for us. It felt like we'd successfully outsourced the protest to the police. I almost felt like calling to the crowd "Right, the police will take over from here, let's go to the pub over the road, and come back if the police leave!"

It wouldn't be a mass day of action without a mass shut-down of the worst tax avoiders, including Sir Philip Green's other clothes stores. So after half an hour, we moved on to BHS, then to Boots, two Vodafone store, Miss Selfridge, and two Dorothy Perkins. Each one of them temporarily closed its doors for business. This could well be the first Dorothy Perkins demonstration in the history of activism.

We soon found out that we were the most read article on the BBC News. Channel 4 covered us. The Guardian covered us. Astonishingly, even the Daily Mail wrote a good piece on us. Multi-millionaire Duncan Bannatyne tweeted in favour of our protests. We were two of the top trending topics on Twitter. There were even rumours that Gordon Brown was thinking of coming down to join the protest. Admittedly, I started the rumours, but nevertheless, I think it goes a long way to showing just how deeply this has grabbed the attention of the country.

The problem with cutting everything is that everyone is affected by it. If they were just cutting benefits and the arts, then the government could easily lie, by claiming that benefits are only used by the lazy unemployed, and arts funding only helps weird experimental dance that no-one goes to. It would be a monumental deception, of course, but you can see how they could successfully spin it. But when you also cut libraries, schools and universities, playgrounds, police, street cleaners, and pretty much everything that it's the government's job to do, it's much harder to spin. Everyone knows a student, or a child going to school. Everyone knows someone elderly who needs help paying their heating bill. Everyone knows someone who has been horribly ill, and so knows how important benefits are to keep them going.

And that's why everyone feels outraged when the same government ministers and lords who cut all our services decided to funnel their own money through Monaco and the British Virgin Islands. It is, objectively, outrageous. This past month, while going to protests, I haven't just been experiencing the mood of a few extremists: I've been experiencing the mood of the nation. Every day, it becomes more clear that the government are cutting the poor for the benefit of the rich. Every day, it becomes more clear that the police are willing to be violent to protect the government. And every day, it becomes more clear that people refuse to stand for it without a fight.