Starting at the ATOS HQ on Bridge Street, tax dodgers and privatisers who have bases in Manchester city centre were visited last night as part of the Manchester People's Assembly Bonfire of Austerity tour.
Each place got a helpful little plaque stuck on its door or windows explaining why its location was on the guided torch-lit tour. At ATOS the guide explained that the company which has a name for kicking people off sickness benefits is actually an IT firm… "yet the Government thinks they're better at deciding who is fit to work than our doctor". He added that the ConDem Government's idea of getting people back into work isn't even successful with 55% of those kicked off benefits having no income and no job.
ATOS got the first plaque of the night, before the two hundred or so people attending, many in Anonymous masks and many from Salford, moved into the town centre proper, calling at places like Bella Italia (`tax dodged £13million), Starbucks (£3billion `dodged' and even buy coffee from Switzerland rather than coffee growers to avoid tax) and Topman (£100s of million avoided via its parent company Arcadia's owner, Tina Green, living in Monaco).
Extra loud hollering was heard outside Virgin Health, where the tour guide explained how Richard Branson's company was running NHS services with understaffed GPs, while he suns himself in tax exile on his Caribbean island.
Everywhere from RBS and Lloyds banks to Boots got a visit and a plaque… "We've just seen a handful of businesses tonight that are robbing £billions from tax payers" said the guide at the end of the night "They're taking money from public hands and putting it into private pockets."
Imploring people to stand up and fight the ConDem Government's austerity, the Manchester People's Assembly spokesperson added that there would be loads of money if these type of companies paid their taxes and the rich weren't profiteering from public services… "We're trying to get everyone opposed to austerity together" she added "It's not about which party you are in or which organisation you are from…"
Those in Anonymous `Guy Fawkes' masks nodded their approval. November 5th is becoming synonymous with political fightback again…
Photos by Alice Searle