On Saturday 31st March, LUC activists took part in picketing workfare providers in Lincoln in conjunction with the National Day of Action Against Workfare called by the Solidarity Federation.
We assembled with other activists at the Stonebow at 1pm, flags and homemade placards in hand, before setting off to the first target, Holland & Barrett.
We quickly set up right outside the shop, with two activists on either end of the LUC banner in front of the window and others spread around the shop entrance with flags and placards, and began making noise and handing out leaflets, to the great annoyance of the manager.
It wasn’t long until we drew the attention of a couple of wandering coppers, who decided they would come over to harass us for a while. After particularly heavy and intimidating questioning of one or two activists, they realised we were clued up enough not to give them our names or move our protest away from the shop entrance, and radioed their sergeant for back-up and unlawfully threatened a couple of activists with arrest. It was at this point that we decided to move onto our next target, Primark, where we again set up outside the shop and carried on making noise and distributing leaflets.
Not long afterwards, the sergeant himself made an appearance, pretending to be on our side and making a couple of shameless attempts to get personal information out of us, before giving up and leaving a couple of constables and a few PCSOs to follow us for the rest of the day.
From there, we moved on up the High Street to Poundland where we had one person join our picket for a while and another refuse to cross the picket to go into the shop.
After a while, and with the police having backed off a bit, we returned to Holland & Barrett. The ever watchful bizzies had of course followed us back down the High Street and positioned themselves by the entrance to BHS to keep an eye on proceedings. One activist had a long and ultimately fruitless conversation with the manager at Holland & Barrett, who said she would be informing head office of our picket. Little did she realise that this is exactly the kind of thing we were aiming for. Given the other coordinated actions across the country, if head office receive similar reports from other branches, they are likely to pull out of workfare schemes to avoid such actions in future. Direct action gets the goods!
The day ended with a bit of fun at the coppers’ expense as we packed up and walked as a group into BHS, right past the coppers, who followed us inside only for us to walk straight out of the back entrance and split up to leave the City Centre by different routes, after which we reconvened in the pub to reflect on the day.
All in all, the day’s actions were fairly successful, although not well attended. Whilst we had enough people for the action to be effective, greater numbers would have been more useful, especially in the face of police intimidation.
The shops we targeted yesterday were not pre-determined (apart from Holland & Barrett). We had a vague idea of the places we would aim for and decided to make decisions as to where to go next on the day. In light of this we have decided that for future actions, planning a definite list of targets beforehand would be a good idea, as it would save us time and ensure greater efficiency.
Solidarity to all those out who were out across the country yesterday and to all those involved in actions across Europe for the European Day of Action Against Capitalism (M31).
More reports of anti-workfare actions from across the country:
And here are pictures of our DIY placards we had on show in Lincoln!