Stunned shoppers saw a group of peaceful protestors placed in handcuffs when police stormed a packed Manchester high-street store on Saturday afternoon.
Officers entered Topman on the corner of Market Street and Cross Street at around 1.25pm to confront three protestors from activist group UK Uncut, who had taken up positions in a store window.
After securing the protestors – who wore sunglasses and fake moustaches to disguise their identity – police took the handcuffs off and let the group continue their protest outside the shop.
One protestor, who wished just to be known as ‘Steph’, said: “Some of them clearly wanted to arrest us, but then they checked out the windows and saw there was no damage, so they let us go.
“It was worth it though. We got a really good reception from people who were laughing at the protest.”
HANDCUFFED: The police with the three protestors
It took almost an hour for police to arrive after the protest first started, when the protestors gained access to the store window and acted as manikins holding up cards with messages.
When police arrived, one member of staff was overheard pointing out how the group had distracted staff members whilst they took up position.
James Lunn, 38, witnessed the incident and afterwards said: “There didn’t seem much point in restraining them, especially if they were going to release them minutes later.
“They were quite clearly harmless, and it seemed like the police just wanted to make a mere symbolic gesture.”
The protest was aimed at Sir Philip Green, the multi-billionaire who also runs big retail names such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins under the Arcadia Group Ltd.
However, the Arcadia Group is actually owned by his wife Tina Green, who lives in Monaco, and Sir Philip therefore avoids paying up to £300m in tax that would be payable if a UK resident owned the company.
Colette Williams, also an activist from Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC), was on hand to help support UK Uncut’s protest against Topman and give out information to passers-by.
Ms Williams said: “It took them around five minutes to realise what was going on, and we were in the windows for about an hour.
“The Government want people like you and I to pay for this crisis. We’re saying get the money back from the bankers, get the money back from all these tax avoiders, and then we won’t have a crisis at all.
“At the moment, they make out that it is the people who are unfortunate to be unemployed that is the reason for these austerity cuts, and that people are lazy and that they need to go out and find jobs.
“But £300m worth of tax-dodging, and the rest, and getting the money back from the bankers, and you won’t have to privatise services.”
It was the second time in a month that UK Uncut had attracted attention in Manchester, after protestors entered Market Street’s Santander bank on May 16.
Staff members of Topman refused to comment on the incident.