There were shocking scenes at the South London offices of workfare exploiters the Salvation Army today as employees of the charity manhandled anti-workfare protesters, tried to seize personal property and then physically prevented them from leaving the building.
Astonishingly one person who managed to escape from the premises before staff blockaded protesters inside was falsely accused of assault and then arrested.
The UK offices of the charity were visited by campaigners today as part of the National Week of Action Against Workfare. Salvation Army are one of the largest charities left who use forced labour – under threat of benefit sanctions – to staff their charity shops. Most decent charities have pulled out in disgust at the exploitative nature of the scheme. The Salvation Army have no such principles and recently appeared to admit that they are even happy to use those on sickness or disability benefits as forced unpaid workers.
Today’s action began at the charity’s plush International Headquarters in the City of London. A workfare army visited the charity holding a sermon extolling the benefits of forced labour in their reception area. Meanwhile several people went downstairs to the cafe run by the charity and handed out leaflets.
Many people were shocked at the organisation’s open use of workfare, and thanked the protesters for making them aware of it. The protest (pictured above) was good-natured and non-violent throughout and eventually a Major from the charity agreed to speak to those present.
The Major claimed that as the international headquarters for the charity, they were not responsible for the actions of the UK section of the Salvation Army. When it was pointed out that protesters were there to show what was being done in the organisation’s name, he agreed that he was happy for the protest to remain in the building until they closed for the day.
He also suggested that campaigners should visit the UK Headquarters in Elephant & Castle who have the ultimate say of the charity’s use of workfare. Not wanting to disobey an order from a Major that’s exactly what those present decided to do.
On arrival at the charity’s Elephant & Castle offices it was clear that a very different side of this supposedly Christian organisation would be on display.
At first several staff – who may have been security but never identified themselves as such – refused to allow protesters into the building. In what appeared to be a change of heart they then relented and opened the doors to allow people inside.
Once inside another workfare sermon began and then some of those present began to sing hymns. This seemed to particularly annoy the charity’s staff who called the police. The mood quickly turned ugly as the Salvation Army’s bully boys began shouting at protesters that they were blocking fire exists and would be arrested – a claim which was clearly nonsense as there was easy access in and out of the building.
Despite not only having been told to visit by the organisation’s International Headquarters, and allowed onto the premises, they then began accusing people of trespass and demanding that people should give them their mobile phones and cameras.
Shocked at the aggresive response to a completely peaceful and non threatening action, a decision was made by the protesters to leave. Sadly only one person made it out of the building as the Salvation Army thugs blocked the door and attempted to grab hold of people to physically prevent anyone from leaving.
As this took place the police arrived and one Salvation Army staff member began insisting the person who had escaped from the building had assaulted him, leading to the individual being arrested. A stand off ensued as those inside were finally freed – the charity presumably deciding that kidnapping people in full view of the police was a step too far even for their shady operation.
Police were heard discussing amongst themselves that they had witnessed people being trapped inside by Salvation Army employees. After tense negotiations it appeared even the police didn’t believe the charity’s wild claims and the individual accused of assault was de-arrested and allowed to leave.
After the good-natured protest earlier in the day this shocking sequence of events showed the true nature of this charity’s response to criticism. Physical force, false allegations and abuse replaced the fake cheery PR front that the charity have attempted to portray when criticised for using workfare.
It seems that the Salvation Army are determined to silence any criticism of their dirty little workfare exploitation. A day of online action in response to these events has now been called by Boycott Workfare tomorrow (Tues 19th March).
The Salvation Army are on twitter @salvationarmyuk
They can be found on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/salvationarmyuk
More contact details at: Workfare Makes You Free Claim Salvation Army – Join the Online Day of Action
Spread the word and let’s tell the Salvation Army exactly what the public thinks of their workfare exploitation and attempted use of force and false allegations to silence criticism.
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