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You may not be aware of this but disabled people were being manhandled off London’s streets by police officers today, as they tried to stand up for their way of life while ministers enjoyed the Paralympic Games elsewhere in the capitol.
The scenes outside the London HQ of Atos, the French company that is being paid £100 million a year to find reasons for removing disability benefits from 87 per cent of claimants, and at the offices of the Department for Work and Pensions, the government department that hired Atos, were part of a day of action organised by the group Disabled People Against Cuts, together with UKUncut.
It was a small protest in comparison with many that have taken place recently, and a sad one for several reasons.
In a country where the government could easily raise more than £20 billion per year by closing legal loopholes that allow the very rich to seed their money away in tax havens rather than pay their fair share into the treasury, it is shameful that the Chancellor, George Osborne, has chosen to slash £18 billion from the welfare budget, regardless of what this will mean for the people who will lose their only means of support.
Nobody from Atos, or the DWP, bothered to speak with the protesters. They were not interested in what they had to say, even though they must realise that a disabled person must be given a very good reason indeed before they will make the effort to travel into central London – braving all kinds of possible risks to themselves as vulnerable people – to raise a political point.
The police turned up very quickly to try to shut down the event, and this led to scuffles and scenes which, as TV newscasters say, some might find distressing. Saddest of all is the fact that the officers and constables taking part were being used as political tools, to remove what their masters might describe as a hindrance, rather than as people. Upholding justice and the law had little to do with it.
We’ve been here before, of course. But when young people and students were ‘kettled’ by police while demonstrating against the tripling of tuition fees, we saw harsher scenes than today. The manhandling of disabled people by uniformed men and women who are equipped for violence is more tragic than outrageous – although you should be outraged to see it.
You probably won’t see it on television, though. Mass media news reports appear to have been minimised, as usual – the norm now for anything relating to direct criticism of the Coalition government and its policies.
But you can get a taste of what it was like here – http://www.katebelgrave.com/2012/08/disabled-people-against-cuts-and-uk-uncut-protest-friday-31-august-london/
– and here – http://bambuser.com/v/2946786
You can read the background to the event here – http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/warning-toxic-government.html
– and here – http://aguynamedguyuk.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/british-decency-another-call-to-arms-six-months-on-atos-wrb-disability/
And remember, figures show that 32 people die each week, from their disabilities or stress-related complications of them, after being told by the DWP and Atos assessors that they are fit for work.