Riot police outside Fortnum & Mason

riot police officer in crowdIt kicked off in Piccadilly outside Fortnum & Mason this afternoon. Riot Police moved into the street, prompting scuffles with protesters intent on partying in the street to disrupt London trading. Police in standard uniform were unaffected while mingling with protesters within yards of where scuffles broke out. The police are clearing Fortnum and Mason but protesters claim they are being "kettled".

Fortnum & Mason

Daily Finance reporters tried to get close to Fortnum and Mason to investigate the occupation by UKUncut, but as we approached protesters in a party atmosphere, riot police moved in from side streets. They used a small amount of force to try to break through to the area outside Fortnum & Masons.

Their appearance prompted an angry response from many protesters, while others fled, leading a confused situation. Where the police were in riot gear, there were small amounts of violence. Yet police officers in standard uniform appeared to be able to move about among the protesters without a problem.

The riot police appeared to want to clear an area outside Fortnum & Mason so they could then tackle those protesters in the building.

Stewards

One perceived problem among the protesters was the TUC's decision to put their stewards "under the control" of the police. Senior TUC stewards received training from the police and the police could listen in to the TUC stewards' radio.

The stewards also had agreed strategies on how and when to call in police back-up. This level of cooperation had never happened before. Normally stewards act on behalf of the organisers of a march.

This led to protesters chanting "Whose streets? Our streets?" against what was seen as police/TUC complicity. See our two-minute video of what was happening.



Kettle boiling

We left rather than be rounded up or kettled. We understand that the police have begun clearing Fortnum & Masons and arresting those involved in the occupation.

The occupation was said to be a good-spirited and peaceful affair with people reading poetry and clearing up any mess they made. Photos posted by protesters show little or no damage inside. One tweet from a protester referred to a stack of chocolate bunnies being knocked over and the person being asked by others to clear it up.

UKUncut issued a press release saying they were "occupying Fortnum & Mason over the tax dodge of over £40m by its owners Whittington Investments which has a 54% stake in Associated British Foods, which produce Ryvita, Kingsmill and others and own Primark".

The Police described Fortnum & Mason as a crime scene. As we went to press they said there had been 75 arrests.
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