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Vodafone protest in Oxford

Sit down | 30.10.2010 18:49 | Public sector cuts | Social Struggles | Oxford

The Vodafone shop in Cornmarket, Oxford was closed for over an hour as activists staged a sit-in to protest against the company being let off from paying £6,000,000,000 in taxes by the Lib-Con government whilst the the same government cuts services from older people, students, the unemployed, the sick, and most other people that are not millionaires.

I was almost disappointed at how easy it was to get into the shop. Given that the protest had been widely and publicly advertised, I was expecting greater resistance. But there was none of that - on the stroke of 2pm around 30 of us sat down in the Vodafone shop, and the doors were closed.

The dude from the police gave a little talk about how he was there to facilitate peaceful protest, and asked how long we would be there. He then immediately contradicted himself, by saying we would be arrested if we didn't leave at the appointed time. And, of course, he asked to be taken to our leader - (external link, your IP address will be logged).

As is the manner of sit-down protests, not a lot happened then, So we amused ourselves with various sing-alongs - : : : (external links, your IP address will be logged), and received loads of support from people passing by the shop. By this time the private security guard had locked the doors to the shop - apparently for health and safety reasons. Whose health and whose safety was being protected by locking peaceful people inside a building was never clear to me. But it did push us to an 'outside the box' solution when food was delivered - (external link, your IP address will be logged).

The action came to a end starting with this speech from the store manager - (external link, your IP address will be logged) followed by the police threatening to arrest everybody for aggravated trespass. At this point the demo somewhat fell apart. The ad-hoc way that the demo had been organised (emails and the like saying get to the shop at 2pm, sit down, and we will take it from there) meant we didn't really have an agreed position on what to do next. Some people left straight away, others waited a bit, and some seemed like they might have been in it for the longer term. Before we could have even a brief discussion about this the police stepped in and arrested on activists (handcuffs and all).

This led to many other activists leaving and many others (to my shame, including me) being stood around not too sure what to do. Luckily one activist had the presence of mind to grab the arrested person and, detecting that there wasn't much support for being in it for the long term, suggested to the police that if the arrested person was de-arrested, we would all leave peacefully. The copper agreed. But ...

You can never trust a copper. The arrested bloke was escorted out of the shop, followed by everybody else. As some of us walked out, we couldn't see him so asked our supporters who where outside (and who had no idea what had been agreed re: de-arresting) where he had gone. 'They've taken him around the corner.' WTF! So a few of us sprinted around the corner where the coppers were about to put him in a van. A bit of argy-bargy followed with lots of us grabbing the arrested guy, telling the police that they had agreed to de-arrest him, and that he was definitely not going to be in a van. To cut a long story short, he was finally de-arrested on the street. And, after receiving far better and more accurate legal advise from fellow protesters that the police, he didn't give his name and address.

We all then returned to the street protest outside Vodafone - (external link, your IP address will be logged) for a bit. A few of us then decided to go to another Vodafone shop - in the Claredon Centre - for a very fluffy chant / banner / leaflet type affair. The centre security were definitely non-plussed with us, and were pretty violent to one person at least. The police turned up (surprise) and gave the standard aggravated trespass threat. We decided we that there are better things to get arrested for than holding a banner, so we decided to call it a day.

Conclusion & reflection
A good short notice action. But we activists need to be tighter on what we do when threatened with police action. But this was just one protest - many more against the cuts will be happening. We will learn, and we will come back stronger and in more numbers.

Sit down


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