Saturday, 26 March 2011

Why Uk-uncut got it wrong today.

Before I discuss today's actions in London I want to outline a couple of truths. Firstly I have nothing against the TUC organised action day, I have a lot of respect for peaceful protesters and their message is a good one showing a lot of community spirit. Secondly I am also hit by the cuts, I am a lower end civil servant working in loosely for the department of culture and arts whose pay is frozen for three years and worse case scenario could be made redundant, I'm also a father of a 10 month old baby who uses the nursery and sure start centre nearby whose prices will only rise over the next three years and I commute by rail and the prices will rise as well. So I understand the cuts are hard, believe me I am painfully aware and have been coming George Osbourne's budget very carefully looking at any ramifications that could affect myself and more importantly my family, I am not a landed Tory who is looking down on those who are being oppressed.

Today's peaceful demonstration, much like the tuition fees demonstrations of last winter were hijacked by a small minority of anarchists and socialists who have now monopolised the news and media coverage with their irresponsible actions. As a peaceful march passed through Parliament square with their banners and listened to the speakers and music in Hyde park all hell was breaking lose in Oxford street. Paint was thrown at Police officers along with light bulbs filled with ammonia, banks and shops were taken over by protesters who broke windows, held sit-ins and spray painted slogans on walls, bins were overturned, Barclays sponsorship ripped from Boris bikes, attacked and occupied the Ritz and Fordham and Masons. I've even seen reports of an injured Police officer and the paramedics treating him were fired upon by
protesters using fireworks.

I've always believed in the ideals of the law, the fundamental being that any action that you do should not cause offense to another person's sensibilities or life and today this has been well and truly smashed. I have long disagreed with sit-ins as a practice as it stops innocent people from carrying out their day to day business and has 0 affect on the companies. Today's example is the Ritz, a symbol of the capitalist dream and a hotel for the upper echelons of Marx's pyramid of power which is no doubt why it was attacked but who suffered? Well yes the owners will have to repair the damage but this is but a drop in the ocean, glass can be replaced, walls repainted who has really suffered? The poor innocents who had paid £50's a head, yes £50's(!), to take high tea at the Ritz. These people aren't Lord Carstairs of Fothering hall but normal people who are spoiling themselves with a day trip. I went with my sister and mother in 2009 to celebrate my mother's birthday and I could barely afford it but I paid out. I would have been mortified and enraged if on that day a group of balaclava and hooded thugs burst through security and helped themselves whilst their brethren smashed windows. The damage may cause a company inconvenience for a week maybe a month but will put a blot on innocent people's lives until they die.
"Remember your mother's 57th birthday?"
"When all those protesters broke in and ruined it? Yeah."
 Also, on a Saturday, when I am off duty and going shopping I want to be able to access shops or banks not be forced out by flash mobs who are sitting in or vandalising the place. It doesn't attract support it deflects public sympathy from a just cause! This is not a nation that deals well with revolution, in our history there has only been one successful revolt that saw proper constitutional reform and that was the Civil war. During 1848, The American war of Independence in 1775-83 or the French revolution this country wobbled but never fell. It offends the sensibilities of law abiding folk and even the peaceful protesters in Hyde park to see hooded anarchists causing chaos, it doesn't attract support merely disdain. What do you think the headlines will say on tomorrows papers? Laurie Penny can't write them all.

Whilst watching the BBC news 24 coverage I heard one protester in Oxford street shout out:
"Police should be fighting crime not us."

Well I've got news for you sonny... Vandalising private property and assaulting a police officer are crimes. If we're going to get technical your demonstration that has taken over Oxford street is also "Obstructing the Queen's highway." Go on, grab a statute book and look it up, I did and yeah you can still get nicked for it. The Police force also agree with the message of cuts, they look to lose numbers and pay other officers at Hyde Park said they wished they could join the strike action and they sympathised so why are you alienating them by hurling smoke and fireworks at them? Even more importantly why are you terrorising the injured and the paramedics who are treating them? What has a medic done? Guess what? They also agree the cuts are bad but they are doing their duty and tending the injured! More importantly, all those man hours that the Metropolitan police force is paying for and redeploying crime fighting police officers is all because you are doing what you are doing! If you weren't running amok through the streets of our nations capital like a Visigoth rampaging through Rome then they WOULD be out tackling crime, drugs cartels etc...

Another thing... In North Africa the Libyans are fighting a gruesome revolution against a vicious dictator who is more than happy to bomb his own people and send tanks in to crush pro-democracy civilians. In Bahrain the Saudi army has moved in to crush revolt in the Pearl, soldiers have threatened medical staff with execution if they help the injured. Ivory coast civilians have been shot at as have protesters in Syria. In this country the UKuncut mob have broken all kinds of merry hell in the centre of London and been faced by police officers with batons because you worry a few public services are being cut and people will lose their jobs, basically because we as a nation are going to have to tighten our belts for quite a period of time... How can you claim #solidarity with these people beyond the sea? What have you got in common? Brutal dictatorship? Nope. Oppressive police force? Are you kidding me?! No basic human right to freedom of speech and protest? No I didn't think so...
So how can you compare yourselves? You sound like spoilt children whining that because you can't have it your way you don't want to play anymore and you are as neglected as a starving child in Africa. Grow up! We are all cross about things and some of the governments decisions but this is the adult world and we are all adults and one of the basic things you were taught at school (or at least I was) is that you can solve problems by constructive argument and debate than by random violence. This country has systems that you can use to lobby government and sign petitions, yeah they may not work but neither does trashing Oxford street! Do you think that will make George Osbourne look up from his cereals and say: "My God! We should stop cuts, that man has painted "STOP SEXISM" on HMV's window and you know what David? He has a point our entire economic policy is a sham!" ?
I also hear the word "Revolution" and the phrase "Bring down the system!" being thrown around... Do you have an alternative government in mind? Robespierre and Danton did, Lenin did, damn it the American congress did but I bet you don't. Do you have the backing of a popular movement that large or influential segments of the population belong to? No... So your revolution is basically a non starter and a guise you can hide behind to make yourselves feel better and justify your actions. Bringing down the state by daubing slogans on walls or sitting in Barclays. I'm sure the establishment are quaking in their boots. Also a lot of anti-Capitalist sentiment and attacks on retailers but I bet a lot of the protesters buy from HMV or Topshop, how many have Vodafone contracts? If you want to hit them where it hurts boycott the stores. Yes Capitalism is unfair, believe me I wish I had money so that I could have central heating or double glazing in my home and my family wouldn't be huddled around the one electric fire during a cold winter but I suck it up and get on with it. Life is not fair. Why should idiots like Ashly Cole get paid more money than he's got brain cells for kicking a ball around and I, who went to university and has a post grad and a 2.1 undergraduate scratch a living for a small amount of money? It is the way things are and no amount of cussing and petty vandalism is going to change that.

Now despite what I have just said there is one thing I do agree with... I do think that those people at the top of international banks and major companies who have off shore accounts and hide in Tax havens are wrong. They SHOULD pay tax like the rest of us. They SHOULD not receive hideous bonus' that pretty much 99% of us will never see in our lifetime let alone a year. Big question is, what can we do?
"The government should charge them more taxes" I hear you scream from half way up your lamp post.
What will that achieve? Nothing. The major banks will merely move their HQ's away from Britain to a cheaper domicile. HSBC are already thinking about Hong Kong and if they go others may follow. If they follow the financial ramifications for this country will be unbearable. You think its tough now you wait until they leave.
Unfortunately this is not the nineteenth century when Britain held the world in its grip and British was really the only way, the principal of multi nationalism and global monopoly means that if somewhere is cheaper and easier then global companies will up sticks and leave. This is part of the problem with all this action. Years
ago we built ships but continued union action and demands for higher wages mixed with lowering of quality meant that now our ships are built in Germany, HMS Invincible is being broken up in Turkey!!! We also built cars, British Leyland had the potential to be a major company on the world stage but same thing now our car companies are controlled by foreign companies taking money out of the country. The government are painfully aware of all of this, their decisions to cut the banks and companies some
slack was difficult. Your hate figure, Nick Clegg, stated that it makes him feel sick that the Bankers can continue to get away with things but his hands are as tied as ours. If we continually attack them they'll just go and this country might as well just close down.

One last point before I call it a night. Who do you think pays for the damage you have wrought? We do. The Boris bikes that were brought in for YOUR benefit, to encourage health and fitness and green transport in the nations capital, vandalised and broken came, in part from your council tax and part from Barclays sponsorship. If they remove their sponsorship then the system will lose out on much needed revenue and be cut back. The Police officers, the paramedics, the street cleaners, bins, cones, council graffiti removers, railings, fire officers... all of this comes out of the public purse that could be being put to saving jobs or boosting services not paying for your crime. Its not coming out of Osbourne's pocket, or Phillip Green's it is coming out of mine, my wife's, even yours! So what is the point?

I would like to tell you that this overgrown rebellious teenager act is tiresome and damaging not just to the country's current infer structure but also to the economy. Countless soldiers died in the last century to protect your rights and your freedoms so that you could say to your government "We don't like what you're doing" and you are repaying that debt by making a mockery of the system and causing anarchy. One elderly veteran said to me after seeing the results of the Tuition fees riot:
"We should have just stood aside and let them (The Germans) role in."
Your actions will never have the desired affect on Government, nor on the majority of the people of this country.

Yes to Protest, Yes to petitions and writing to MP's. No to mindless acts of vandalism dressed up in the pretentious guise of "Revolution".


  1. Paul Alexander Thornton27 March 2011 at 11:39


    Is there any way you can verify that the person quoted as saying "Police should be fighting crime not us" was part of the minority committing an offence as opposed to being a part of the vast majority taking place in a peaceful protest? If the individual quoted was in fact someboday not breaking the law then you may have to re-think the paragraph that follows "Well I've got news for you sonny..." and so on.

    Also please provide some reference to anyone who has compared themselves to the protesters involved in the Jasmine Revolution, I haven't heard anyone say that yet, but I think it's needed to justify your rant "So how can you compare yourselves? You sound like spoilt children" etc. It shouldn't be hard to find amongst 500,000 protestors but I won't assume it was said until I see/hear it.

    It's a lot of fun (maybe) and very easy (probably) to cherry-pick quotes to supposedly reinforce your points. "We should have just stood aside and let them (The Germans) role in." I understand the desired effect of using this quote, but when I think about this statement being made, rather than provoke me to judge the protestors (or the criminal minority who exploited the situation) it actually just makes me rather nauseous, and I hope I never meet the person who said it.

    I do believe people are inspired by the largely succesful and peaceful (relative to their size) revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, I hope the majority of people can differentiate between the problems here and the problems over there.

    Some good points made about bankers, but let's not forget the world is more inter-connected than ever and that is why we are seeing simultaneous protests in countries all over the world and perhaps bankers will find the same problem wherever they go. Maybe we should just make a stand? We do need to make a stand over tax-avoidance, it must be hard to be in a government at a time like this and a lot of difficult decisions to be made. I do sympathise, but the less exceptions made for the super-rich the less likely you will see people gathering in large numbers on the street.

    Proportionate to population size 500,000 is an enormous turnout for anything in the UK and regardless of stupid activities taking place or not, the message clearly should not be ignored.

    I really resent you saying "the UKuncut mob have broken all kinds of merry hell" UKuncut really doesn't seem like a mob to me, and I firmly believe it was not UKuncut who were committing crimes. There are probably a lot of true stories also, about innocent people battered by police, not to say that police weren't provoked by others but I find it very likely that in the chaos some very sweet and peaceful people got mistaken for bad guys and beaten. I've read a number of accounts of this happening and a tough police worker, and a tough criminal-type faux-tester can probably recover psychologically from a beating far quicker than say, a young woman who has never been punched in her life.

    2 tweets by Laurie Penny...

    "@B3nB3ach got badly beaten by the cops, for being at a sit-in. His lovely face is all smashed up. I am angry."

    "I got hit by a flying barricade. This is getting seriously out of hand. Cops beating unarmed women in headscarves"

  2. Greetings,

    I'm afraid I heard the comment whilst watching BBC24. The reporter was at Oxford street and a protestor stood behind him shouting the comment:
    At that exact moment he was not commiting any crime but whose to say that he was totally innocent or guilty of anything through the entire day. Even if he was innocent I'm afraid I can't retract the statement or following paragraph as it does go on to describe the legal side and section why the Police acted as they did.
    As for references to those who had compared themselves to the protestors in the Middle east and Africa, I'm afraid I cannot. I read comments on Twitter throughout February and early March and saw the hashtag Solidarity and other comments that drew similiarities between the groups causes but have long forgotten who said what and when- I did not expect to be referencing them later. The paragraph also is meant to point out that protestors in England, even if they do not think they are on the same page as the Libyans (for example), that their motivation, in my lowly opinion, is more about money than genuine political change as we had very little of these sort of protests under a Labour government.
    Last year I was at the Imperial War Museum walking around the Upper art gallery looking at the aeroplanes and got talking to a veteran Spitfire pilot about the Battle of Britain, one of my other interests, he was talking about friends, comrades, many of them had been killed. He sighed heavily and moved on to discuss the state of the country and the war and he said that the Britain that we were living in was almost a waste of potential, not the Britain they had fought to defend and maybe "We should have just stood aside and let them roll in." It was not a Pro-NSDAP statement, just the opinion of a man who was disillusioned with the state of the country. To be honest my Grandfather, who fought the Japanese in Burma has pretty much checked out of the country, he is also disillusioned and has said: "I don't know why we bothered."
    I'm afraid I have a History degree, during those 3 years of undergrad and 3 years of post grad I was trained to support my arguments with quotes and I don't appologise for this at all. If anything, although lacking a few references and my excessive reactionary anger when I wrote it, I have constructed a structured argument. I would also point out that protestors and jounralists will be doing likewise from the opposite side.

    I do not think, and I truly believe, that change CANNNOT be forced from a can of spray paint, or from a minority of protestors who attack banks. As a Liberal, I believe in the works of Mill who clearly states you should "Beware the tyranny of the minority" in a democratic society, I think that the reaction of the public after the tuition fees riots and the activities in the Oxford Street area on Saturday, is not one of support.

  3. part 2!!!

    I do believe that the 500,000 peaceful protestors did a truly wonderful thing, they exercised their free democratic right and, even though I think the Cuts are necessary and that Mr Miliband is erenoious, that such protests should be part of a proper and just Democratic country.
    Maybe not all the UKuncut are part of the mob that created some of the criminal damage BUT others did spray graffeti, damaged private property, made no attempt to seperate the criminal elements or cooperate with Police in the arrest of the Criminals. When Police react to that kind of situation, anyone who is suspected of Criminal activity is rounded up along with anyone who tries to restrict an officer in their duty. To be fair one person in a face obscuring black hoodie looks exactly the same as another, the uniformity of anonymity is a double edged sword in that case.

    To be fair, if you've been on duty under fire from paint bombs and fireworks and other missiles for over 8 hours and someone pushes you back yelling abuse, as a human being it would be reasonable to strike out. I wouldn't agree that "A tough police worker" can recover from such scenes. Many officers can suffer from PTS and not all of those on duty were riot officers but regular beat cops brought in as back up.
    I'm afriad I'm not totally willing to accept Ms Penny as a fully reliable source of information. She can be quite contradictory such as refering to Oxford street as "The people's riot" and then some six hours later on BBC news say "There is no riot.". She is also fairly selective, as I am, with citing information so surely you could discount both of our works. Another brief question is; who threw the baricade? Was it the Police or a protester? Also it should be born in mind that a Police officer who strikes out at an innocent can lose their job or suffer extreme disciplinary. In these times of Police cuts and media scrutiny they need to be exceptionally controlled, though I'm not saying it didn't happen. Ultimatly it comes down to Laurie Penny's word over a Police officers, Whose to say who is right?
    I do thank you for your comments though and it has made me think about my work. I will indeed try to have more references, unfortunatly they weren't possible in this case. I also appologise that this whole essay was written as a bit of a reactionary angry rant BUT I wrote it as I felt on the night and I think it would be fair to say that many people from middle England, even the peaceful protestors felt similiarly no matter what their political orientation.


    Chris Sams