Recriminations fly after anti-cuts protests descend into violence

Ministers attack Miliband's backing for marches – as retailers denounce police for not stopping violence
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The Independent Online

The violent scenes that emerged after Britain's largest demonstration for eight years have sparked a political and practical post-mortem, as businesses and politicians measure up the damage caused.

Critics such as former Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner and Lib Dem mayoral candidate Brian Paddick said there were not enough officers "in the right place at the right time" and that intelligence warning of trouble had been ignored allowing trouble to erupt on Saturday.

Many retailers felt the same yesterday as they removed graffiti from shop fronts and started replacing the smashed windows in the main shopping areas of Piccadilly and Oxford Street. As cleaners removed scrawled slogans – including "fightback" and "Tory scum" – from one of Trafalgar Square's bronze lions, Westminster Council revealed the cost of the clean-up was already "tens of thousands of pounds".

However, Commander Bob Broadhurst defended police presence and planning which put 4,500 officers on the streets and ultimately saw 201 arrested. "I wouldn't call them protesters. They are engaging in criminal activities for their own ends," he said. "We have minimised the damage caused. We'll never have enough officers to protect every building in central London. It cannot be done."

He added that video evidence would be used in an attempt to make arrests in the coming days. Two people have already been charged. 84 people, including 31 police officers, were injured in the violence that replaced the good natured scenes of the earlier TUC-organised march with images of confrontation and damage.

John Green, spokesman for South London Solidarity Federation, was among critics of police tactics. He said police were "violent without any sense of proportion". "We have witnessed police brutally launch into demonstrators without any restraint," he said. "This is not an aberration but a continuation of their behaviour on other recent demonstrations."

Many of those taking part in the worst of the violence employed so-called "black bloc" tactics – wearing black clothing and hiding their faces with scarves and hoods – while others sported anarchist flags. Militants also attacked luxury targets including Fortnum & Mason and the Ritz hotel.

London's deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, hit out at such groups as "fascist agitators". "They were a nasty bunch of black-shirted thugs and it was pretty obvious they were intent on rampaging around and would be difficult to control," he said yesterday.

The GMB union's leader, Paul Kenny, said the local elections on 5 May should be a referendum on the Government's economic and social policies. "The Government's strategy is wrong, unfair and will not get the country working," he said. "The next step is for the alternative voice to be counted in the ballot box in May. GMB will urge voters to reject unemployment, poverty and cuts in public services."

Political recriminations started to fly over Ed Miliband's decision to attend the TUC rally which gathered at Hyde Park after the march through London. Allies of the Labour leader insisted he had been right to attend the event while Tory MPs mocked him for comparing the anti-cuts campaign to the struggle against apartheid.

The shadow Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, said: "The decent mainstream majority in Britain are on Ed Miliband's side and on Labour's side." But Tory MP Harriett Baldwin said: "For Ed Miliband to compare himself to the anti-apartheid campaigners just beggars belief. His self-important comments are an insult to those who risked and gave their lives in the fight for equality."

Corporate targets

Fortnum & Mason

UK Uncut alleges Associated British Foods (ABF) – which is 54 per cent controlled by Fortnum & Mason's owner Whittington Investments – has avoided more than £40m of tax. ABF owns Jordans, Ryvita Company, Twinings and Primark.



Boots

Boots is registered in Switzerland, where taxes are far lower. UK Uncut claims that since 2008, the tax Boots pays in the UK has dropped from 33 per cent to 3 per cent.



Topshop

The world's largest fashion store is owned by Sir Philip Green. UK Uncut has condemned the fact that his company – the Arcadia Group – is registered in his wife's name. As a resident of Monaco, Tina Green does not pay tax, meaning the Greens were able to make £1.2bn in 2005, without paying tax. UK Uncut claims this cost the UK taxpayer £285m.



RBS

The 84 per cent state-owned bank has come under fire for paying more than 100 of its bankers more than £1m each last year. UK Uncut points out bank bonuses reached almost £1bn, while the bank lost £1.93bn for 2010.



HSBC

Around 300 protesters smashed the windows of HSBC bank in Cambridge Circus. UK Uncut deny involvement.

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