This is a letter from a number of NGOs and unions in support of UK Uncut who are under attack for organising a peaceful occupation of tax dodgers Fortnum & Mason on March 26th
Protest has been a means for progressive change throughout human history - and it continues to play that role across the world today.
Through protest, people have won and defended their rights to a decent standard of living as well as control over their lives and the societies in which they live.
It should come as no surprise that in a world of vast and growing inequalities in wealth and power, protest is growing in this country as in many other parts of the world.
Protest is the legitimate right of everyone - and we believe it is right that people are protesting against some of the richest in the world failing to pay their taxes while others suffer serious and increasing levels of poverty and deprivation.
UK Uncut have played a significant part in changing the terms of debate around economic policy in the UK and have been praised by politicians and the media for doing so.
Indeed UK Uncut played a key role in ensuring that more people were at the march on Saturday than otherwise would have been. At all times they acted in a way which complemented and supported the TUC march.
However, in taking the type of peaceful action which UK Uncut routinely undertake on Saturday, targeting Fortnum and Mason on this occasion, they were treated in a political and deceptive manner by the police which sends an ominous message about the right to protest.
It would appear activists were misled by the police about not being arrested when asked to leave the Fortnum and Mason building, after which they were held for a significant length of time, their clothing was confiscated and they have been denied the right to protest in the near future.
This situation has now been seized on by the media and politicians to further threaten the right to protest. UK Uncut activists have been blamed for damage they did not cause and this story has become a substitute for discussion of the real issues raised by UK Uncut and the TUC march in general.
This does not represent a consistent approach to policing legitimate protest. Neither does it represent the sort of consistent approach to freedom of protest which the Government led us to believe they supported on entering office. We support the right to protest for a fairer and more equal world. As part of this, we condemn any politically motivated policing which provokes, intimidates or criminalises protestors. We will continue to support UK Uncut, alongside thousands of others, until tax justice is secured so the poorest do not have to pay the price of a financial crisis caused by the richest.
Neal Lawson, Compass
Mark Serwotka, PCS
Len McCluskey, Unite
Paul Kenny, GMB
Jeremy Dear, NUJ
Liz Nelson, Tax Justice Network
John Hilary, War on Want
Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign
Andy Egan, People and Planet
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