The Fortnum and Mason Story So Far
March 26th Occupy for the Alternative!
On March 26th 500,000 people took to the streets to stand up against the cuts which are destroying our lives. One of the protests that day was ‘Occupy for the Alternative’ called by UK Uncut, where hundreds took part in a sit-in protest at Fortnum and Mason – Royal Grocers, and Tax Dodgers of £10million per year, highlighting the hypocrisy of the Government who say that the cuts are ‘fair’ and ‘necessary’ whilst letting big business and rich individuals avoid about £20 Billion of tax per year.
Despite the protest being in a shop open to the public, and after assurances by the police that no one would be arrested, 145 people were arrested. 139 of these were then charged with ‘Aggravated Trespass’. Activists were loaded into coaches and taken to police stations across the city, where their phones and possessions were taken ‘for evidence’ and many even had their clothes taken – not to be returned for months. Many were treated terribly, and all were held in the cells over night and into the next evening. 145 people spent 23 hours in a sterile white room with no company except the police who had lied to them, and humiliated them. Lynne Owens, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has admitted that the arrests were used for intelligence gathering purposes.
I AM SPARTACUS!
In July, 109 people had their charges dropped. Even the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t think it was worth the resources to try and prosecute 139 people so instead they picked a handful to make an example of. The remaining 30 were put into 3 trials, one in November 2011, and two others in March 2012.
In August, in an unprecedented move of solidarity, 21 of those who had their case dropped announced “I Am Spartacus!” by reviving their case and demanding that either all the cases are dropped or everyone gets a fair trial! In the end, these heroic 21 were found ‘Not Guilty’!
Meanwhile District Judge Snow got hold of the case. Snow’s heart is as cold as his name. In recent times he has purposefully taken on many of the protest cases, from the student protests, March 26th and now Occupy, and takes pride in giving harsh sentences.
The first trial, of 10 people, started on the 10th of November 2011 nearly 8 months after the occupation of Fortnum and Mason. For the alleged offence of Aggravated Trespass, it is required to prove both trespass and an ‘additional act’, which in this case the crown claimed was ‘an intention to intimidate persons’. After the prosecution failed to show any evidence for an act that any of the 10 defendants did that was allegedly showing an intention to intimidate, and after even the prosecution’s witnesses, including a chief police officer, said that the protest was ‘sensible’ and ‘good natured’, the defence saw there was no case to answer.
After a tense few days of deliberation from the judge, he announced a guilty verdict for all ten defendants. His closing speech was chilling, as he applauded the principles of the activists and talked about the importance of challenging and engaging in the system, “but within limits” then proceeded to convict them. These “limits”, it is apparent, are created by the powerful and are used to protect the status quo and to quash the right to meaningfully protest.
The decision to convict was absurdly based on join enterprise, and the decision is being appealed to the High Court, probably sometime before the other trials next March.
The sentence was 6 months conditional discharge for all but one, who got a £215 fine (different because of a breach in a previous conditional discharge), and all ten has to pay £1000 ‘towards prosecution costs’ – the judge took no account of differences in individual’s abilities to pay. So that leaves the defendants collectively in £10,215 of debt for taking a stand (or a rather a seat) against unnecessary and unjust cuts.
Unbelievably, a couple of weeks after this verdict, the 21 brave ‘Spartacus’ were found Not Guilty. Just shows that this all has nothing to do with justice, but that those on trial have been chosen to be made an example of and is an attempt to further criminalise protest and to intimidate people from protesting.
We are still waiting for a date for the appeal of the first trial, and the second and third trials are due in mid and late March 2012 respectively (starting on the 9th March).
How can you help?
- You can send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org, come along to protests and events as the appeal and other trials approach, and write to your MP.
You can join the campaigns against the law of aggravated trespass, and of joint enterprise, please contact email@example.com for more information on this.
- You can donate to help fund the campaign and support the defendants with travel costs and other expenses – this trials are hurting the pockets of the defendants as well as every UK taxpayer. You’ll also be helping to stand up for the basic right of citizens to protest.
- The best act of solidarity is to not let these attempts to punish protesting discourage you. Take a stand against the cuts and all the injustices in our society, fight for equality, occupy for the 99% and don’t let them stop you!
The Fortnum145 arrests and convictions are just one example of a crackdown on the rise of protests since the cuts were announced last October, with many receiving much harsher sentences.
Get in touch
One of the ways you can get in touch with us by sending an email to:
And please have a look at the different ways you can help.