A multi-millionaire entrepreneur has donated thousands of pounds to assist UK Uncut in their fight against upcoming legal battles.
Lush cosmetics co-founder and managing director, Mark Constantine, has given his company’s largest charitable grant of £10,000 to Green & Black Cross, a volunteer-run group of activists, who are providing legal support to the 138 members of UK Uncut facing criminal charges next month.
Members of the anti-tax avoidance group, whose methods of direct action against high street stores culminated in mass-arrests at London department store Fortnum & Mason on 26 March, are facing charges of aggravated trespass and a maximum of three months in jail and or a £2,500 fine.
Mr Constantine, 58, said he felt the group had been unfairly targeted by police and deserved support in their fight against the courts. He said Green & Black Cross were providing an admirable service in helping assist the group with their legal process.
“I really like what they do and I like to look after those people who try to look after others,” he said. “I am not interested in funding genuine criminal acts, like smashing windows and the rest of it, but I am very, very interested in looking after those who care so deeply about things that they have to go out and do something about it.”
Green & Black Cross, the anarchist movement that developed out of last year’s student protests, are providing free legal advice to UK Uncut, recommending lawyers and facilitating their defendant meetings. In a grant proposal to Lush’s charity scheme, Charity Pot, the movement said the funds would cover their set up and running costs for six to ten months.
Sophie Pritchard, Charitable Giving Manager at Lush, said: “We received an application from Green and Black Cross in February this year for funding to allow them to expand their support of activists through three main functions; first aid, legal support and kitchens.
“Their initial focus was to support student activists since there were many out on the streets for the first time unaware of their rights, but they are now expanding to people involved with cuts demonstrations, another new wave of activists.”
Charity Pot, a cocoa butter and almond oil body lotion that retails for £12.75, generates most of Lush’s charitable funds. Last year, Lush gave away more than £1m to organisations last year, with the average grant coming in at between £3,000 – £4,000.
According to Ms Pritchard, Lush is also in discussion with members of UK Uncut and is “quite keen” to support them directly if and when they need help. Mr Constantine said he would consider paying additional grants to the direct action group, if they required funding to cover legal fees or fines.
“I think the message UK Uncut are putting across is good and clear and really important to society,” he said. “It seems to me extraordinary that those citizens who go into companies and ask them to pay tax should get arrested. I doubt very much the court will issue fines, but if I am asked for help from those that were peacefully protesting, then I will certainly look into it.”
Mr Constantine paid the legal costs incurred by Plane Stupid after its members camped on the runway at Stansted in December 2008, effectively shutting down the airport. He has also funded Sea Shepherd, the direct action maritime conservation group that has attacked Japanese whaling ships.
The cosmetics company was censored by the Advertising Standards Authority last year for misleading the public in a series of claims about fox hunting in an in-store leaflet titled “Hunting ban, what hunting ban?”.
Suzy Blackwell (not her real name), 25, a member of UK Uncut, facing aggravated trespass charges, said: “This is really good news. The fact that so many have been willing to help out protesters is not only a sign that we’ve been treated unfairly – it’s a sign that protesting the government’s cuts is a position many support.”
A shorter version of this article appeared in the i.