Ten protesters were found guilty of aggravated trespass today, Thursday, after taking part in an occupation of luxury department store Fortnum and Mason in London.
The occupation took place on 26 March, during a TUC demonstration against government spending cuts. The occupation was organised by the UK Uncut group, which campaigns against tax avoidance.
The accused all pleaded not guilty.
During the trial the court was shown footage of the occupation. The defence said this showed a police officer telling protesters that they would be allowed to leave without arrest.
Judge Snow said, “At no point was any express or implied promise made by the police that protesters would not be arrested.”
The judge also said, “It was the intention of protesters to take control of the store. They were aware that they could not do so without flooding the store with protesters thereby cowing both police, security, staff and customers.
“I have no doubt it was their intention to intimidate.”
The defendants have all been given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £1,000 costs each to the prosecution. Fortnum and Mason had applied to the court for compensation. This was refused.
Outside the court the defendants released a joint statement. Their parents stood behind them holding signs reading, “I support the Fortnum and Mason defendants”.
It said, “We were standing up, or more accurately sitting down, against our government making harsh cuts to public services, whilst letting companies like Fortnum and Mason get away with dodging a total of tens of billions of pounds of tax every year.
“Then we are put on trial, whilst it’s clear the real criminals are the tax dodgers, the politicians and the bankers who caused this financial crisis and who continue to profit.
“We are supposed to have a democratic right to protest. We will, of course, continue to fight this and will be appealing the judgment.”
One of those found guilty, Adam, told Socialist Worker, “The cuts will only be stopped by taking industrial action and a full range of other activities.
“I’m a member of the Unite union and lots of my fellow trade unionists will be on strike on 30 November.
“It looks set to be the biggest strike in British history. It’s great that so many are brave enough to take action. We are part of the same movement. People must stand together against the government.”
Another defendant, Jake, told Socialist Worker, “When we are unified we are at our most powerful and we will always show acts of solidarity where possible. We have to continue our resistance.”