A day before animal rights activists from around the country gather in Bristol for the Animal Rights Coalition gathering (Sun 5th April), the focus near the venue is once again on the Cruise outlet in Cabot Circus, Bristol and their refusal to implement a no-fur policy at it's chain of stores. Although the outlet in Bristol does not sell fur themselves at present, probably due to a lack of local demand, the store management have refused to rule this out and fox and rabbit fur products are openly sold at other outlets of the chain.
The campaign is ongoing and local activists meet to demonstrate there weekly. This legal demonstration though is usually met with heavy handedness and abuse of power by the security guards for the centre, who regularly tackle protestors and forcibly carry them out, not just from the shop, but the entire shopping centre.
In recent weeks, the police have also started to become involved - confiscating campaign materials and threatening activists with arrest for breach of the peace.
Efforts are being made to encourage the manager of Cabot Circus to issue a fur-free statement which would mean that no shops in the centre would be allowed to sell fur at any point in the future, including the much targeted Cruise.
Activists began gathering at 12.00 near the entrance to the Cabot Circus shopping centre in the city centre. Those first present were from the local Bristol Animal Rights Collective, who turned up with a plethora of banners and flyers giving a graphic representation of the cruelty behind the fur trade. Their numbers were soon swelled as other activists from around the country arrived ahead of the ARC meeting to join the demo.
A security guard was posted at the entrance, presumably to stop the activists from entering, but before long it was obvious that there were simply too many to contain and so the cente manager was called to try and convince them to leave.
"All of this is having an effect on trade", the manager told Indymedia. "This store doesn't even sell fur so I don't know why they're here"
When asked if the Cabot Circus centre had any plans to implement a ban on the sale of fur at it's outlets, the manager simply replied that the sale of fur was legal and they would have no objection to anyone selling it.
"We have tried to negotiate with the activists and sent them an email, but received no response"
The activist that the email was sent to however made it clear the offer that was made;
"We received an email from a security guard there which invited me to an interview at the local police station, obviously that is not something I'd like to do"
The group split into two and covered both of the main entrances leading up to Cruise, and the response from the public was largely positive, with many taking leaflets, signing the petition and talking to the activists about the campaign.
At about 2pm, it was decided that the group as a whole would take up their right to protest outside the shop itself.
"They've said in the past that we can campaign inside the centre as long as we don't have any graphic images of the animals that have been used in the fur trade. They said we could have a simple banner and they expect us to remain quiet."
The group took up position outside the shop and unfurled a banner that stated 'This shop supports the bloody fur trade!'. Very soon, a large presence of centre security guards took up position outside the shop, and a group of 5 policemen arrived, despite earlier showing no interest in the demonstration. The centre manager was seen pleading with them to take action.
Clearly prepared for this happening, the centre management brought out a sign excusing the shops actions and assertaining that this particular store did not stock fur. The dates that the sign claimed though were hotly disputed by the activists who had clearly done their research.
"This is a nationwide campaign and so it doesn't matter if this one shop doesn't stock it. Until fur is removed from sale from all outlets, and a fur free policy is introduced, all shops nationwide are legitimate targets for protests like this"
Attempts were made by the activists to move the sign but were stopped by security, who in the process ended up blocking it from view themselves as they stood guard.
At about 2.30, things began to get ugly as one of the policemen informed a lone protestor that they were about to be removed by force. No realistic explanation for this was given to the group. One by one, first the police and then the shop security guards, seemingly acting over and above the authority granted to them by law, began grabbing the protestors and dragging/carrying them from the centre and dumping them near the road outside.
Security guards were seen laughing as they tried dragging several protestors through a fountain, but ended up failing to get one of the individuals wet and in the process, soaking themselves. The writer of this article, despite taking no active part in the protest up until this point, was manhandled by several security guards until it was pointed out to the manager of the centre that he was being filmed stopping a perfectly legal piece of citizen journalism from taking place. The writer was then told that if he moved from the position he was in he was liable to arrest or being forcibly removed. Luckily, the position he was told to stand in was directly in the path that they were bringing the activists through and so all of this mistreatment was captured on film.
After the last activists had been removed, they regrouped back at the entrance that they had started out from and agreed on the importance and success of the event.
"This has proved to me that this needs to be turned into a much wider campaign" said one activist
"We'll be bringing this up at the ARC meeting tomorrow, and hopefully arrange for grassroots groups from around the country with similar demonstrations, which will continue until Cruise issues a fur-free policy statement and removes all fur products from their shelves"
The group left at about 4pm as people in the centre began to thin out but vowed to return soon to outlets around the country to continue the campaign against Cruise ad their support for the fur trade.
Anyone who would like to support the Cabot Circus demonstrations in the future should contact BARC via their website
see also:https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/03/424361.html | http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/690045 | http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgPOfMAF20E | http://bristolanimalrights.org.uk/news/index.htm | http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GVPF6K66Ko&feature=channel_page