Following the Panama Papers revelations, and Prime Minister David Cameron’s fluctuating denials and responses about his own tax arrangements, today’s protest was called at short notice and organised through social media with backing from ‘UK Uncut’ and ‘Class War’ among other groups, as well as a facebook page run by freelance journalist Abi Wilkinson.
Several hundred people had already gathered outside Downing Street by 11am (a start time moved an hour earlier with very little notice). Police barriers were quickly dismantled and Whitehall was occupied by a determined but peaceful crowd.
A bicycle sound system started up and a shout went out that the protest was moving. Soon, hundreds of people streamed up Whitehall and along the Strand on a mystery march to another venue.
The new target turned out to be the Grand Connaught Rooms near Holborn, where Cameron was addressing a Tory Spring Forum (telling them he was going to keep taxes down!).
For a while, the crowd blockaded all access to the hotel, with a large number of police stationed at doors.
Various speakers addressed the main crowd at the front of the venue, including Jolyon Rubinstein.
As news spread that Cameron had managed to exit the building just before the crowd arrived, the decision was made to return to Downing Street.
In Whitehall there were several hundred who hadn’t been to the Connaught Rooms, and they cheered as they saw the march returning, swelling numbers towards a couple of thousand in total.
Although at first, police had let traffic through into Whitehall, they decided against trying to clear the diverse and peaceful crowd, and instead they started turning round the backed up vehicles and eventually closed Whitehall completely. As the rain stayed away, the atmosphere was upbeat, with police even laughing at pithy commentary from Spoken Word Nerd.
However, there were a lot of police parked up in vans in reserve, and the gates were defended by TSG officers, dressed in new friendly yellow tabards rather than their usual all-black uniforms.
The Class War contingent brought along their ‘new homes’ banner.
With reference to assemblies going on in France and Spain, people sat down and discussed ways to get rid of Cameron and with what to replace him, then shared their ideas on the sound system microphone. One little girl suggested throwing spiders at him, which got a huge cheer.