Why did police charge only 11 rioters over the anti-cuts protests?

MPs are demanding to know why the police arrested and charged so many peaceful protesters at Saturday's anti-cuts demonstration, while letting off those who attacked shops and banks and damaged monuments.

Demonstrators who took part in the sit-in at luxury grocer Fortnum & Mason, organised by campaign group UK Uncut, are bearing the brunt of police and prosecutors' attentions.

The Metropolitan Police detained 201 people on Saturday, as they battled break-away factions of activists targeting shops in London's West End. A total of 149 have been charged in connection with the protests – 138 of them (94 per cent) face criminal charges of aggravated trespass at the high-end store, with only 11 charged for the more violent protests elsewhere in the capital, including serious disturbances in the West End during which police were pelted with ammonia-filled lightbulbs.

Campaigners insist no major criminal damage was committed inside the store, whose management said the only physical losses from the protest consisted of the theft of an unspecified number of bottles of wine and champagne. The company said the closure of its business on Saturday afternoon had cost it £80,000 in lost trade.

David Winnick MP, a senior Labour member of the Commons' home affairs select committee, said it was "very strange" that protesters involved in the Fortnum & Mason sit-in featured so heavily in the break down of those charged. "The people who went into Fortnum & Mason were not involved in violence," he said. "They were told that if they left the building they would not be charged, and they were. Why isn't it that the large majority of the arrests were of people who were engaging in violence?"

The Green MP Caroline Lucas also criticised police tactics: "That the majority of those arrested and charged on Saturday were not violent thugs posing a risk to others but participants in a peaceful sit-down protest betrays a serious failure of judgement."

Raj Chada, a solicitor representing

several of those arrested and a specialist in public order law, said that contrary to normal police practice it appeared that suspects had not been formally interviewed about the reason for their arrest. Instead, detained protesters were asked a single question before being charged with aggravated trespass, an offence originally drawn up to deal with hunt saboteurs.

Mr Chada said: "The manner in which these arrests were carried out raises a number of serious questions. Is the act of conducting a peaceful sit-in protest now being treated as a criminal act? On the information that we have to date, many of these protesters should not have been arrested, let alone face the anguish of court proceedings several weeks away."

Organisers of the demonstration, who wanted to draw attention to the amount of tax paid by large corporations, claimed that protesters were "tricked" by police inside the store, who apparently gave assurances that anyone not suspected of criminal damage would be allowed to leave without being arrested.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force could not comment while criminal proceedings were active.

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor