Panama Papers: 'Resign Cameron' Protest Storms Conservative Party Conference

09/04/2016_Downing Street Protest
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest Saturday outside Downing Street in central London, Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron has faced a week of questions about his tax affairs. Neil Hall/Reuters

Hundreds of protesters descended on the spring conference of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party on Saturday, calling on him to close “tax loopholes” or resign.

A crowd of several hundred set off from the prime minister’s official residence at Downing Street, central London, before charging to the front of the Grand Connaught rooms conference venue nearby. They surrounded the building and chanted “hail to the thieves” before staging “a moment of silence for the death of democracy” and smashing a pig-shaped pinata bearing a photograph of Cameron’s face.

A Conservative Party source tells Newsweek that Cameron had already left the conference before the protesters arrived.

The demonstration followed a week of sustained pressure on the prime minister after documents released to journalists as part of the “Panama Papers” leak showed that his late father set up an offshore fund called Blairmore. There is no suggestion that either man did anything illegal.

After several days of evasive answers to questions about any benefit he or his family derived from the fund, Cameron finally admitted in an ITV News interview on Thursday that he had made money from Blairmore in the past, but said he had sold his holding in the company before becoming prime minister in 2010 and that it had been subject to “all the U.K. taxes in all the normal ways.”

Speaking at the conference on Saturday, Cameron admitted he had handled the week badly, saying, “I know there are lessons to learn, and I will learn them. Don’t blame Number 10 Downing Street or nameless advisers, blame me.” He added that he was “very angry about what people were saying about my Dad.”

“The Panama Papers show that David Cameron has been taking the general public for fools, we need to tell him that we're not going to put up with it any more,” reads a message on the protest’s Facebook page .

At the time of this writing, protesters had returned to the gates of Downing Street, where the demonstration began. Police would not give an estimate of numbers.

Speaking at the protest, Abi Wilkinson, a journalist and one of the organizers, tells Newsweek the inspiration for the event was the revelation this week that Cameron personally intervened to weaken an EU drive to reveal the beneficiaries of trusts, first reported by the Financial Times .

“Not only is David Cameron not working hard enough to crack down on... offshore trusts and stop tax avoidance and evasion, he actively interferes when the EU try and crack down on it,” Wilkinson says.

“[Britain is] basically the tax evasion and money laundering capital of the world. We need to ask our government to do something about it. We owe it to the world," Wilkinson says.

A government source told Newsweek earlier in the week that Cameron’s intervention was aimed at opposing changes that “weren’t achievable” in practice.

Famous names attending the protest included the musician Lily Allen and the comedian Josie Long.

One man driving a jeep with a sticker advertising a Conservative Party-affiliated group was forced to abandon his car on pavement near the Conservative conference after approximately 15 protesters sat down around it. He was escorted into the conference by police via a back entrance, declining to speak to Newsweek. A traffic enforcement official was later seen attaching a penalty notice to the abandoned car.

Cameron also has come under pressure from the opposition Labour Party. Writing in Newsweek, Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson accused Cameron of “governing from the shadows,” and said the prime minister should make public the details of all the shares and investments he held from 2005, the year in which Cameron became leader of the opposition.