Police sprayed protesters with CS gas yesterday at a demonstration in central London against tax evasion.
Trouble flared as police arrested a member of the protest group UKUncut on suspicion of criminal damage during a sit-in at Boots on Oxford Street, which closed the shop for four hours. Protesters said the woman was placing leaflets in between the gaps of the store's doors when she was accused of damaging the building. Dawn Foster, 24, said: "She was asked to follow officers into an alley and when she refused, she was grabbed and pulled around the corner. Then everyone followed police into the alley, chanting: 'Shame on you.' An officer sprayed a bunch of people with the gas. They were screaming."
Demonstrators said staff at Boots offered eyewash for those affected while workers at nearby Ben's Cookies handed out milk, an antidote to the spray whose effects include vomiting and sore eyes. Three protesters were taken to hospital. UKUncut has accused Boots of depriving the UK of millions of pounds of tax by being registered in Switzerland.
A Boots spokeswoman said the company had established itself in Switzerland to "better reflect the increasingly international nature of our wider group", and that it had significantly contributed to the UK's finances.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard confirmed the woman's arrest and said: "CS Spray was deployed during the incident, which can cause major irritation but will do no harmful damage.
"Other protesters tried to prevent the arrest taking place and that is when the gas was used. Every officer has CS spray on them most of the time. It is used at the officer's discretion and has been used for many years."