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Saturday, 19 February 2011

Taking on Barclays Bank

The news was upsetting - Barclay's had only paid 2.4% tax on their enormous profits of over £4 Billion. Not only that but Bob Diamond, the newly appointed boss of Barclay's had allowed himself a bonus of £9,000,000. On Radio 4 representatives of the banking industry detailed how we were supposed to feel sorry for them - we needed to be more grateful for all they put back into the economy. That is sounding extremely hollow as it was the trillion pound bail out of the banks that has led to the vicious cuts in public spending that we are experiencing now.

If I only paid 2.4% of the tax I owed, I would not expect the state to feel happy at the small contribution I had made!

And so the plans were hatched - and we decided to occupy our local Barclay's Bank and turn it into a community library for a short time. I had expected that our electronic watchdogs would be monitoring the usual channels, so a group of us decided to go 'old school' - we would go word of mouth!

People were asked to bring some spare books, meet near the Bank, then simply march in, leaflet, and read! Books were put on the shelves, and we shushed people if they made too much noise!

The staff called the police, but we were so well behaved that even the police seemed reluctant to move us on or try to arrest us! There were a few moments of tension, once when a police officer got very angry when photographs were being taken of her (they didn't find it ironic that we don't like the police endlessly taking pictures of us!) The other problem arose when two officers turned up wearing everyday clothes, and refused to produce any I.D.

When a senior police officer finally asked us to leave, we had already done an hour of protest, and were about to join the 'Rally against the cuts' in a nearby square. Success - and the local papers responded well - the library theme was clear, as the local authority cuts announced yesterday included the closure of 5 local libraries.

Banners saying 'Books not Bonuses', 'Libraries not legal loansharks' and 'Diamond pay your bonus back' adorned the interior of the Barclay's store - it was amazing, I'm so proud of the way the 30 or so protesters behaved. Non-violent direct action is a very powerful tool indeed!

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