A month on from the previous London demo, matters have escalated. TopShop’s cleaning company, Brittania have now sacked one of the two suspended workers, Susana, a single mother with several years service to the company.
She is determined to see justice, and the grassroots ‘United Voices of the World’ union have expanded the protest so that 17 shops around the UK were targeted by actions today.
Also more groups have come forward to support the fight, moved not only by the issues of living wage, harassment and bullying, but also by the fact that Philip Green’s tax arrangements see TopShop paying very little in the way of UK tax.
Today’s protest in London began at 5pm outside the flagship Oxford Street store, and was briefly visited by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who held a banner in support.
Like last month, the policing was intense, with two Inspectors on duty, Forward Intelligence Officers, the mysterious green van with what is thought to be a petapixel camera on a pole, plus other surveillance officers and dozens of uniformed police. All this was on top of some very large private security guards hired by TopShop.
The police were quite pushy-shovey, marking out arbritary lines for where people could and couldn’t stand. Even the Police Liaison Officers, supposed to be all smiley, got a bit shouty at times.
Despite the excessive policing, the protest remained good-natured and there were no arrests. A walk up Oxford Street took the roughly 150 activists to TopShop’s Marble Arch branch where the shutters came down and customers were huddled out of a rear door. Business was effectively suspended for around 30 minutes, and amongst the noise, some drumming, vuvulezas, and chants, one egg was thrown.
By 7pm the march was back at the Oxford Circus branch, and after a few more speeches on the open mic, the protest was finished for the day.
We heard that there had been a banner drop inside the store, and also that 600 hand-written notes had been left amongst clothes inside the store, telling readers about the bullying, the suspensions and sackings, the poor wages and Philip Green’s tax avoidance.