UK Uncut: British protest public service cuts
The UK Uncut protest movement is trying to force the government to reverse budget cuts by pushing corporations to pay more taxes.
By Laura Lynch
In Britain, a night at the pub has paved the way for the fastest growing protest movement in the country. It's called UK Uncut, as in United Kingdom, and its aim is to force the government to undo deep spending cuts announced last fall.
Like movements in Egypt and Tunisia, it's a product of both young peoples' disaffection and their mastery of social media.
As Britain limps through another month of bad economic news -- the cost of food and fuel are rising, public sector jobs are disappearing and mortgages are hard to come by -- there are some bright spots.
The banks -- at the heart of the financial crisis of 2008, seem to be feeling much better now. British stalwart Barclay's topped the business news Tuesday, announcing 32 percent profits.
This has created a recipe for public discontent. Combine big bank profits with multi million dollar bank bonuses for executives.
Then throw in corporations who avoid paying millions more in taxes.
Finally, add harsh government spending cuts like the ones announced here last October. The night the cuts were spelled out, Jonnie Marbles went out with his buddies.
"It was just a group of people having a few drinks, having the kind of conversation I think probably lots of people across the country were having," Marbles said.
That night, they hatched a plan.
They decided to examine which corporations and individuals were avoiding big tax bills, and then target them with peaceful protests.
In the days that followed, they used Twitter and Facebook, encouraging others to do the same thing. Within weeks, the protests spread across the country as protestors suddenly gathered inside stores, catching staff and security off guard.
So far, the protestors haven't forced anyone to pay more tax.
Nor have they persuaded the government to reverse cuts to public spending.
But they have drawn attention to the issue, and they've certainly caught the attention of the business community.
Richard Lambert is the outgoing director of the Confederation of British industry. He said the demonstrations are a matter of concern.
"Especially at a time when the whole emphasis on job creation in this country over the next year or two is going to have to come from business investment," Lambert said. "So we need at atmosphere, an environment in which businesses are encouraged to invest and create new jobs."
Protests with a twist
As new chapters of UK Uncut spring up, so do new targets. Outside a London branch of Barclay's bank, UK Uncut founder Daniel Garvin, sketched out the plan for the weekend -- protest with a twist, occupying bank branches, then highlighting the public services that are at risk of shutting down.
"So we'll be paying Barclay's a visit this Saturday, setting up libraries and other facilities that have been closed, that will be closed as a result of the cuts, to really sort of draw attention and link the banking crisis to the cuts," Garvin said.
Barclay's didn't receive a taxpayer funded bailout. But Garvin argued it's benefitted from other measures such as short term loans and loan guarantees.
And while he's wary of drawing comparisons, he admired the social media fuelled protests in Egypt and Tunisia.
"It's amazing to see the value and the people power and the power of political activism and what it can achieve and certainly we try to take great courage and great inspiration from what's happening in North Africa," Garvin said.
There's no suggestion of revolution in Britain. But people are only just starting to feel the painful effects of spending cuts as libraries close and bus routes shut down.
In fact, protest may turn out to be one of the country's few growth industries in the months ahead.
You can watch a video of the UK Uncut movement below:
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