Londonist reporter Andy Thornley was at the front of the Occupy London protest that stormed the Panton Building near Piccadilly last night and has this eye-witness account and images.
Occupy London and UK Uncut protesters sprung a surprise march from the steps of Eros in Piccadilly to Panton Street last night, storming the HQ of mining company Xstrata. The company was targeted as its Chief Executive, Mick Davis, was the highest paid executive in the UK last year walking away with over £18m.
The speed with which the march left Piccadilly caught police unawares and they were able to head unchallenged down Oxendon Street stopping traffic as they went. The march included the now customary samba drum band and was led by a man carrying a red flare directing the route to take. Despite taking a wrong turn and slipping as he changed direction, the flare-holder stopped outside Panton House, bathing it in red light and smoke. Around 60 protesters then stormed the building, overwhelming the solitary security guard who was in no position to stop them.
The protesters entered through the lobby area, with around seven people making their way up to the roof to unfurl their banner ‘Power to the 99%’. They managed to drape the banner from the top of the building before police arrived, making arrests, including journalists, for the offence of ‘burglary’.
One officer explained (just as he was about to arrest me) that this was because they were trespassing and the door to the offices was allegedly damaged in the incident.
Police put a containment or ‘kettle’ in effect in the immediate vicinity of Panton Street as they feared an ‘imminent breach of the peace’ and gradually allowed people to leave over the course of the next few hours. Several undercover officers were identified by the protesters and had to take shelter behind police lines as angry crowds surrounded them, chanting ‘shame on you’.
Karen Lincoln, supporter of Occupy London said: “Mick Davies is a prime example of the greedy 1 per cent, lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions. In this time when the government enforces austerity on the 99 per cent, these executives are profiting. The rest of us are having our pensions cuts, health service torn apart and youth centres shut down.”
“We refuse to stand by and let this happen. We call on others to join us in the fight for a more just society”.