Scotland Yard has deployed undercover officers to spy on a network of activists whose viral campaign against tax avoiders threatens to close down hundreds of shops in the run-up to Christmas.
The surveillance officers were first used at a protest in October, the Guardian can reveal, despite an assurance given to parliament last year that only officers in full uniform gather intelligence at protests.
The group being monitored, UK Uncut, will target high-street stores in nine cities across the UK tomorrow, in its latest attempt to draw attention to the estimated £25bn the Treasury loses each year in tax avoidance.
In recent weeks activists inspired by the UK Uncut group closed more than 30 Vodafone shops after the campaign went viral through the use of a Twitter hashtag – #ukuncut – which helps users to share messages.
Sir Philip Green, the retail billionaire and efficiency adviser to the government, has become UK Uncut's latest target, with stores belonging to his Arcadia Group – including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Miss Selfridge – all being targeted tomorrow.
Other companies that will be targeted by protesters tomorrow are Boots, Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC.
The transformation of the UK Uncut campaign from a small gathering in a pub to a potential network of upwards of 30,000 people in just six weeks is a textbook example of how protesters mobilise through Twitter. It also reveals the lengths police are going to gather intelligence on the burgeoning protest movement.
Amazing, isn’t it? A group asking that the law be upheld is considered a threat to society by the police.
How is that?
And what does it say about the corruption of power in the UK?