Several buildings were damaged in central London on the sidelines of Saturday’s anti-cuts protest, with banks including branches of Santander, HSBC and Lloyds TSB, as well as other businesses such as McDonald’s targeted by breakaway groups of protesters.
Fortnum & Mason, the smart department store on Piccadilly, and the shops in front of the Ritz hotel on the same street, were also targeted, with people smashing windows and damaging produce on sale. Some two dozen protesters occupied the roof of the shop’s front entrance and some of the departments inside for more than an hour.
As darkness fell, Metropolitan Police deployed their controversial containment tactic, kettling, outside Fortnum & Mason.
Officers made nine arrests during the afternoon – all for criminal damage, threatening behaviour or intent to cause criminal damage. Five officers were injured, with one requiring hospitalisation, while 27 protesters were injured.
The first scuffle occurred at Oxford Circus at 1.45pm when protesters attacked a Topshop store. Paint and smoke grenades were thrown at police and the store’s facade, cracking several windows.
The police, who closed Topshop, said ammonia-filled light bulbs were thrown at officers on Oxford Street. These protesters were heavily outnumbered by the usual weekend mix of tourists and shoppers, some of whom were hit by paint fired at the shop.
UK Uncut, a direct action group opposing corporate tax avoidance, was thought to be behind many of the attacks on shops, including the occupation of Fortnum & Mason. Members of the group waved black and red flags from the window above the retailer’s ubiquitous green and white clock.
The group accuses Associated British Foods, which is 54 per cent controlled by Fortnum & Mason’s owner Whittington Investments, of avoiding £40m of tax.
The Ritz was also attacked by protesters wearing balaclavas and hooded tops, shattering windows and throwing yellow and purple paint.
As most of the protesters occupying Oxford Circus made their way towards Piccadilly, a small group of young people, dressed in black hooded tops with scarves pulled over their mouths, let off coloured flares and smoke bombs in the centre of the road.
Riot police had largely left the scene when one group set fire to an 8ft high model horse they had brought with them to the march. Students claimed the “Trojan horse” signified the betrayal of the Liberal Democrats rescinded promise not to raise university fees.
Branches of HSBC and a McDonald’s at Cambridge Circus were also attacked, with several protesters breaking in before riot police arrived.