On returning to the port of Skiathos after a €15 boat trip we were greeted by the £63 million Lionheart yacht owned by the tax dodging Sir Philip (billionaire) Green (Arcadia Group, Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge and British Home Stores) dominating the quayside. As we disembarked Tina his wife was being assisted down the gang plank with her two well groomed dogs which drew much attention from the gathering crowd who mostly had no idea who owned this large imposing vessel or who had actually paid for it. While the crowd were distracted by this masterful piece of theatre Philip slipped off down the side of the quayside unnoticed, well maybe that was his hope.
Saira Weiner and Simon Hickman an activist duo from Manchester were on hand to quickly put an end to that hope. Saira challenged him vocally about the £285 million tax dodge he’d pulled off and how it may of paid for the huge boat which now dominated the Skiathos quayside. The sum total he could respond with was are you here on holiday, as if we couldn’t afford it paying our fair share of tax in the country we worked. Philip quickly slipped into the crowd and disappeared in to the Skiathos evening and anonymity.
We convened in a near by bar to consider our next actions, had we interrupted our holiday enough with the minor skirmish with Sir Philip? Not yet!
In true activist style it was back to our room to prepare placards, a problem when you haven’t come on holiday prepared for a demonstration. We commandeered two large posters and a kindly shopkeeper gave us temporary custody of a marker pen which were put to immediate use. Then it was off back down to the port of Skiathos with fresh rolled up placards, one proclaiming “ Philip (Billionaire) Green £285 Million Tax Dodger” and the other “£63 Million Yacht. £285 Million Tax Thief = 20,000 NHS Nurses – 32,000 students. Pay Your Tax” returning the marker pen on the way.
We had discussed how the evening would unfold and our bottom line was don’t get arrested, which considering we were on holiday we felt a fair compromise. We’d already decide our course of action and that was to display our placards at the rear of Sir Philips huge boat and engage anybody in conversation who was interested. There was certainly a degree of trepidation as to how we would be greeted especially by the local people who’s livelihood may in some way depend on the super rich visiting the island, that was completely unfounded to our relief.
As you would expect in such a holiday destination there was a multi national crowd many of whom had no idea who Sir Philip (Billionaire) Green was. One thing they all seemed to understand was that these super rich people were abusing their power and position to fleece the normal hard working people. A small crowd had gathered but Sir Philip then did us a massive service to help circulate our message.
Tina Green returned with the comment of “not this again” obviously not expecting to be confronted on holiday. As she boarded her luxurious yacht Sir Philip appeared and gave instructions to his crew to have us removed, quite difficult you would of thought on public land. Sir Philip then amazingly started to hurl abuse from the deck of the yacht. Instructions were given by him to the crew to “Hose The Morons Down”. Simon and Saira retaliated vocally with “Pay Your Tax” , “Who Bought This Boat” and “You Should Be Ashamed” this intercourse did nothing more than generate more interest in what was going on by the quayside.
One of his lackeys from a smaller yacht moored beside Lionheart came to argue his case it seems that in his opinion that if you employ people you don’t really need to pay tax but he was quickly dispatched by a female member of the crowd now gathered who responded with “if he’s done nothing wrong what’s the problem”.
Unbeknown to us the Mayor of Skiathos had be summoned by Sir Philip to resolve the situation, that would be helpful, the ruling class sticking together against a peaceful protest highlighting their crooked ways.
A man approached us from behind, proclaiming he was the Mayor of Skiathos and “this isn’t helping” I assume he meant it wasn’t helping his pal Sir Philip. He asked us to leave the quayside as this was private property. As we had already made a pact that we would avoid arrest at all cost we complied with his request immediately. We moved our protest to the port perimeter. As we walked off the quayside the Skiathos water taxi man was shouting you are heroes, maybe an exaggeration but we felt we were doing our bit. What we left behind could only be described as mayhem. A selection of Greek locals and holidaymakers entered in to a very heated debate with the Mayor. They demanded to know when the quayside had become private property and why two peaceful protesters were being treated in such a way for pointing out a matter which plagues the capitalist world. Although we don’t believe it became physical we were told that one Greek man spat at the Mayor to show his disgust. We’d gone from a two person protest to a mass quayside argument with around fifty people looking on and a two person protest at the quayside perimeter.
We continued to engage passers by in conversation around Sir Philip (Billionaire) Green the tax dodger, his £1.2 billion bonus and £63 million yacht, similar stories from around Europe and the world were recounted to us. Apart from the Mayor and his small yacht lackey we received support from holiday makers and locals alike.
While chatting to an Australian couple, from behind us two port police snatched our placards and asked us to accompany them. We were escorted to one side and questioned by the police about who we were, what we were doing and why. They were constantly on their radios and phones trying to find out what to do with us. At this point a Greek holidaymaker stepped in to argue our case. He wanted to know what we’d done wrong and why we were being taken away. This in its self attracted more interest. In a lull we managed to get this man to one side to see what was going on and what was likely to happen. He seemed to think that now we’d been moved on things would settle down. Or maybe not.
After an extended conversation we were informed by the police we would have to escort them to the port police office. Bizarrely on the way round we had quite a nice chat with one of the police who is travelling over to Manchester later this year. Once in the port office the placards were laid out and we were asked to explain the meaning of them. A discussion between the two officers ensued and they obviously had no idea what they should do with us. Then the same Greek holidaymaker came in to defend us again. One officer explained to him that we may be a threat to national security, he looked at us then looked back at the officer and said look at them, national security you have to be kidding, our thoughts exactly. This three way Greek conversation went on for a few minutes, then the police made another phone call.
We were informed that we were excluded from the port and if we entered again we would be detained, we were not allowed to perform any further protests and we had to attend the port police office at 10am the following morning. We were then released. We grabbed the Greek guy to thank him and find out what went on. He told us that it was no big problem and we should be OK.
We again retired to a bar to consider the evenings events, at this point we realised the police hadn’t actually taken our full details so guess what we weren’t turning up in the morning to give them another opportunity to pursue us.
We’ve giggled ever since, annoyed a Tax Thief and his wife, dragged the Mayor in to a mass quayside argument and then taken into custody by port police on a matter of national security (my arse).
The following day we went down to the port to see hos Sir Philip was doing, there was no trace of Tina, Sir Philip or Lionheart. Not claiming to have chased him of the island as we weren’t privy to his holiday itinerary, but it was another smile moment!
What did you do on your holidays?