The Establishment is scared of the power of this new movement

First-person account from a nonviolent UK Uncut protester held in a police cell for 19 hours.

I was proud to march "for the alternative" last Saturday. However, since the Iraq war protest, I know that no march, no matter how huge, is enough to change policy. And that's why I left the main demo to join the UK Uncut action.

I wanted to be part of something more creative and less easy to ignore. I'd never been on a UK Uncut action before, but was inspired by what I'd heard. Not just because their demos are peaceful and fun; not just because they appeal to a universal sense of fairness and morality. I've also admired the way they secure the media's attention, so that even the Daily Mail now questions why huge businesses are allowed to avoid tax when we're told there isn't enough money for vital public services.

I can now vouch for the fact that UK Uncut actions are friendly and empowering. No one individual takes charge. Everyone is trusted with mutual responsibility. This in itself feels radical, given our over-regulated, risk-averse culture.

People unfurled banners, chanted, read and listened to poetry while customers continued shopping. We discussed how Fortnum & Mason's owner, Wittington Investments, is alleged to have avoided paying £10m a year in taxes – enough to pay for 500 nurses. When a container of sweets was accidentally knocked down, people tidied it up. We all made group decisions through consensus. We were in a shop, but no longer passive consumers.

The protest ended in circumstances that the Metropolitan Police will no doubt be forced to explain and justify. My friend needed the toilet, but at the door riot police stopped us, supposedly because it wasn't "safe" outside – even though there were mothers with prams walking past. When finally we were allowed to leave, it was into a "kettle" of police in riot gear, who accused us of thousands of pounds' worth of criminal damage (an accusation dropped once we were inside police cells). We were handcuffed and led away.

At the station, my outer clothes were removed, and so was my watch. I was put into an ugly 8ft by 10ft cell lit by a putrid yellow light, with no windows, the words "God Have Mercy" desperately scratched over the door. I am extremely short-sighted, but was not allowed to wear my glasses in case I used them to damage the cell or harm myself. Fingerprints, DNA and photographs were taken.

The cell was claustrophobically ugly. As the hours ticked by, the walls started to close in. I found myself acting out the prison clichés of doing stretches and press-ups to break the monotony and feel less physically trapped. When I was taken out for a wash, I relished seeing daylight through a distant window. No one could say how long I'd be there – just that they had the right to keep us for up to 36 hours and, with an extension, even longer.

At times I could faintly hear the voices of my friend and other protesters speaking to police officers. Someone started drumming a tattoo on the wall. I began singing, and found that the cell acoustics were fantastic. Spirituals and folk songs seemed most appropriate, and I hoped that other prisoners would hear me and feel less alone.

I was bailed 19 hours after being arrested. I was charged with aggravated trespass, as were 137 others. As one civil liberties lawyer has stated, it is unprecedented to arrest so many people for simply protesting peacefully in a building.

But I don't regret participating. Thanks to UK Uncut, things are already changing. Last Tuesday, a public inquiry into corporate tax avoidance was launched, and the government is even discussing a blanket anti-avoidance law.

Perhaps that's why they were so heavy-handed with us. The Establishment is scared of the power of this new, popular movement. Perhaps it all comes down to that Gandhi adage: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win."

Kirsten Downer is a freelance journalist and first-time UK Uncut protester.

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Why it's far too early to declare Ukip dead

The party could yet thrive if Brexit disappoints those who voted Leave.

"Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won," wrote the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo. Ukip can testify to this. Since achieving its founding aim - a British vote to leave the EU - the party has descended into a rolling crisis.

Theresa May's vow to pursue Brexit, and to achieve control of immigration, robbed Ukip of its political distinctiveness. But the party's greatest enemy has been itself. Its leader Paul Nuttall did not merely lose the Stoke by-election (despite the city recording the highest Leave vote), he self-destructed in the process. Contrary to his assertions, Nuttall did not achieve a PhD, was never a professional footballer and did not lose "close personal friends" at Hillsborough. Ukip's deputy Peter Whittle pleaded last weekend that voters needed more time to get to know Nuttall. No, the problem was that they got to know him all too well. A mere three months after becoming leader, Nuttall has endured a level of mockery from which far stronger men would struggle to recover (and he may soon be relieved of the task).

Since then, Ukip's millionaire sugar daddy Arron Banks has threatened to leave the party unless he is made chairman and Nigel Farage is awarded a new role (seemingly that of de facto leader). For good measure, Farage (a man who has failed seven times to enter parliament) has demanded that Ukip's only MP Douglas Carswell is expelled for the crime of failing to aid his knighthood bid. Not wanting to be outdone, Banks has vowed to stand against Carswell at the next election if the dissenter is not purged. Any suggestion that the party's bloodlust was sated by the flooring of Steve Woolfe and Diane James's 18-day leadership has been entirely dispelled.

For all this, it is too early to pronounce Ukip's death (as many have). Despite May's ascension and its myriad woes, it has maintained an average poll rating of 12 per cent this year. This is far from its 2014 zenith, when it polled as high as 25 per cent, but also far from irrelevancy. Incapable of winning Labour seats itself, Ukip could yet gift them to the Conservatives by attracting anti-Tory, anti-Corbyn voters (in marginals, the margins matter).

Though Theresa May appears invulnerable, Brexit could provide fertile political territory for Ukip. Those who voted Leave in the hope of a radical reduction in immigration will likely be dismayed if only a moderate fall results. Cabinet ministers who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce immigration have already been forced to concede that newcomers will be required to fill vacancies for years to come. Ukip will be the natural vehicle for those aggrieved by Brexit "betrayal". Some Leave voters are already dismayed by the slowness of the process (questioning why withdrawal wasn't triggered immediately) and will revolt at the "transitional period" and budget contributions now regarded as inevitable.

The declarations of Ukip's death by both conservatives and liberals have all the hallmarks of wishful thinking. Even if the party collapses in its present form, something comparable to it would emerge. Indeed, the complacency of its opponents could provide the very conditions it needs to thrive.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.