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We shut down the tax dodgers’ stores – and the shoppers supported us

The government wants to cut the deficit. But rather than collecting the taxes to do this, it awards the tax dodgers. Labour knighted Top Shop owner Philip Green, and the coalition government gave him a role advising on how to implement the cuts - cuts that wouldn't be needed if he and his friends paid their taxes like the rest of us.

It was with this in mind that, yesterday, around 250 of us met inside Top Shop's flagship London store, chanting: "Where did all the money go? He sent it off to Monaco".

The heavies that Top Shop had hired for the day bundled protesters, who included the Guardian's Polly Toynbee, Indie's Johann Hari, and renowned tax expert and former government adviser John Christiansen, out of the shop. So we blocked the doors, chanting "if you want to sell your clothes, then pay your tax".

UK Uncut protest in Oxford Street, London

With Top Shop closed, we proceeded to other stores owned by Philip Green - BHS, Miss Selfridges - and also to those other known tax dodgers Boots and Vodafone. All the time, members of the public cheered, applauded, and in some cases, joined in. We then returned to Top Shop, and shut it down for another hour or so, shouting out news from Twitter of another 20 stores across the country similarly shut down by ordinary people who pay their tax, and don't see why big corporations and the mega-rich shouldn't pay theirs.

Across the country, this disparate group of people - going under banner UK Uncut, or "Big Society Revenue and Customs" - have encountered something remarkable. When my friends were dragged out of Vodafone in Birmingham on the first day of action against tax dodgers a few weeks ago, shoppers gathered round to cheer them. At the same time, I was sat with 30 other people in the Oxford branch, as passers-by volunteered to hand out our leaflets outside, and passed us food through the letterbox.

UK Uncut protest in Oxford Street, London

And, yesterday, we saw the same amazing level of support. Some shoppers stopped buying, and sat with us on the pavement. Others cheered us as they walked past, or came up to express their quiet support. And one fantastic man bought a vast pile of pizzas to feed us all as we sat in the doorway to Top Shop.

The government has done a great job of telling people that there is no alternative to cuts which will wreck lives - that we have to grin and bear the pain. But people are increasingly realising that that's a lie. And as we see through the lie, we will see these cuts for what they are - an ideological assault on the public services that our grandparents worked so hard to build for us. And we will see that maintaining those public services is not only possible: we owe it to our grandparents to leave it to our children.

Adam Ramsay blogs at Bright Green.

Photos by @tamsinchan

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