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Barclays Branches Targeted in Protests Against Tax Avoidance

UK Uncut mounts direct action against 50 branches as Barclays admits it paid 1% corporation tax in 2009

by David Batty

More than 50 branches of Barclays bank across the UK have been targeted by activists protesting against tax avoidance.

A protester from UK Uncut raises his arms as he takes part in an occupation of a branch of Barclays bank in central London. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images The direct action by UK Uncut, taking place in more than 30 towns and cities including London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, came as Barclays was forced to admit it paid just £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009 – a year when it rang up a record £11.6bn of profits.

A UK Uncut spokesman said: "We are hoping to very peacefully and legally send a big message to Barclays that paying 1% corporation tax is not really acceptable."

There are around 10 different protests underway in central London with protesters staging a live stand-up comedy show, a breakfast club for children and setting up a library.

Ruth Griffiths, 36, a UK Uncut supporter, said: "Today we are transforming the banks into schools, leisure centres and libraries and forests because it's society that's too big to fail, not a broken banking system."

Earlier this morning protesters gathered outside the entrance of the Barclays branch at Piccadilly Circus, holding banners saying: "People before profits" and chanting "books not bonuses" as they made an impromptu library outside the building.

After 30 minutes of public protest waiting police officers intervened to request activists move on.

Most of the group began walking towards another branch via Soho, while 20 people remained at the bank in Piccadilly Circus.

Supporters of UK Uncut said people were also angry at the refusal of Barclays' chief executive Bob Diamond to apologise for the banks' role in the economic crisis.

Emma Draper, 25, who stayed outside the branch, said: "It was announced yesterday that Barclays paid around 1% corporation tax.

"The government is allowing banks such as Barclays to get away with not paying huge percentages of their taxes while at the same time slashing public services.

"The cuts are not necessary, they are a political choice because the government chooses to continue to prop up banks such as Barclays instead of funding public services."

UK Uncut, a group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and corporate tax avoidance, has previously targeted companies such as Vodafone, Top Shop and Boots.

CD Editor's note: See the US Uncut website here: http://www.usuncut.org

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