Amongst streets bustling with Christmas shoppers a crowd stand gathered at the doors of Vodafone, a cluster of red banners above their heads, police horses are on guard close by as chants go up and echo across the streets. It has only been a month since the student protests of November 10th yet it is hard to overstate the difference in times. The momentum of the student protests has spread, has ignited opposition to the coalition’s unjust program of cuts, has begun a broader protest movement. This time the protests are targeted at tax avoiding companies.
David Stewart, Leeds City Socialist Party
Rolling protests across Leeds city center on Saturday the 11th of December denied access to branches of Vodafone and Topshop as well as banking giant Santander, hitting profits during the most important retail season and causing embarrassing scenes for the companies involved as they were forced to close their doors. Minor scuffles broke out as some protestors tried to enter stores to carry out planned occupations but found their way barred by police.
The protests were provoked by anger at Vodafone’s avoidance of ₤6bn in tax and head of the Arcadia group Philip Green’s tax exile status.
Earlier in the day more than two hundred supporters had rallied in Victoria Gardens outside of Leeds Art gallery under the broad umbrella of ‘Leeds Against the Cuts’ to hear speakers and show support for the continued struggle. The rally coincided with the end of the occupation of Leeds University and as students from the Occupation arrived cheers and applause rose from the crowd. The rally which was called by Leeds Trade Council included speakers from the CND, the Public and Commercial Services Union and the Socialist Party’s Ian Pattison as well as Andy Smith from the occupation of Leeds Trinity University, which is faced with closure due to coalition cut backs to higher education funding.
The rise in tuition fees has passed through Parliament, the occupation of Leeds University has ended but there is no return to the status quo. The protests which have been witnessed not only in London but on streets across Britain will not be quickly forgotten, those opposed to cut backs and austerity measures will not be quietly dismissed. But the question now then is what form will the protest movement take in the coming weeks and months?