By John Pring, Disability News Service
The Metropolitan police have launched an inquiry into the policing of a five-hour protest outside Westminster Abbey, apparently following allegations that officers prevented disabled activists from receiving food, drink and medication.
It is just the latest inquiry to examine how the force has dealt with disabled people who have taken part in anti-austerity protests since the coalition came to power in 2010.
Saturday’s protest at Westminster Abbey was aimed at drawing attention to the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF), and included about 10 ILF-recipients, all disabled people with high support needs.
A heavy police presence arrived minutes after activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) began setting up a camp on private land belonging to the abbey, with the support of the mainstream grassroots groups UK Uncut and Occupy London.
Some of the activists were not able to enter the grounds because security staff – who appeared to have been warned about the protest in advance – had already locked some of the gates.
The police presence continued to grow until there were more than 200 officers surrounding a group of about 50 protesters, about half of whom were disabled people.
One of the protestors who had been unable to enter the grounds, Robert Punton, described later in a blog how a disabled activist inside the metal railings asked Punton’s personal assistant to pass him a bag, which contained his medication.
But a police officer pushed the bag back over the fence, even though he was told it contained vital medication.
Officers also refused to allow food and water to be passed over the fence.
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