Sam Coates, Young Greens male co-chair, writes for us about his experience of Saturday’s UKUncut action in Cardiff. Anyone else who was at an action at the weekend, or who has thoughts on the subject, is welcome to email a short piece to email@example.com.
I went to my first UKUncut action in Cardiff this Saturday. I surprise myself saying that, after being a huge supporter of the campaign and being involved in other sorts of direct action, so I was a bit nervous when it came to it.
It was part of a day of action that began with a ‘busk against the cuts’ by the statue of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS. Some other Young Greens turned up with a sash saying “save my NHS”, and we managed to get it over the statue after some difficulty!
At 2pm we led people to the target. It was Topshop in our case, which they didn’t expect. Me and another Young Green, Seb, were first ones in, and the security guard tried to grab us. We both tried legging it inside the store, but he picked me to throw out and I quickly ran back inside on the other side of the door!
We sung ‘We wish you would pay your taxes’ and chanted “no NHS cuts”. The health service is set for cuts of 11% in Wales, far higher than in England or Scotland, and people were very receptive to the question – why should our health service be ripped apart so Phillip Green can keep hundreds of millions he doesn’t need and rightly owes the taxpayer?
After a while a number of us moved back to the front of the store so the public could see us. We sat down with loads more people supporting from outside, and eventually the store was closed. Police had trickled in from the start of the action but had mostly just stood there, until an inspector arrived and talked to us. At this point we were very thankful that a trio of legal observers were with
us to advise us.
We were told that we should leave after ten minutes or they would ‘consider’ arrests under breach of the peace, which was odd given that requires an imminent threat of violence which only an overzealous security guard could even begin to represent!
At this point an ITV Wales camera appeared outside the shop, at the front of the sizeable crowd that had amassed. The feeling was that we’d made our point and there was no need to put ourselves at risk of arrest, especially with many of the people taking part being new to this sort of thing.
So having closed Topshop for over half an hour we moved out to cheers on the street. My friend gave an interview to ITV to make it clear the action was organised by UKUncut, not one of the several Trotskyist groups that were putting their logos everywhere. There were many Greens involved in the action, but when it comes to movements such as this being party political can be unhelpful.
After it all finished we heard from FIT Watch that my friend had been “this close” to being arrested, since he was the most vocal and confident member of the group. This was met with a mixture of humour and unsettledness, but everyone considered this the most successful action in Cardiff yet, and bodes well for the summer of anti-cuts campaigning ahead!