1 July 2014
On Saturday 100 protesters from Disabled People Against Cuts and our allies occupied the grounds of Westminster Abbey to protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund, a source of essential support enabling disabled people with the highest support needs to live in the community and participate in society.
Supporters from Occupy London, the Blacklist Support Group and UKUncut facilitated disabled people to move equipment including ramps, hoists and accessible tents and toilet into the grounds.
The protesters planned to set up a wheelchair accessible independent living protest camp in full view of Parliament as a source of irritation to the millionaire politicians who are destroying so many lives.The closure of the ILF signals the end of disabled people’s right to independent living, to choice and control over our own lives and the return to the institutions we fought so hard to escape. At the TUC disabled workers’ conference in May an emergency motion was passed to oppose the closure and support the campaign led by DPAC and PCS with Unite now coming on board as well.
The police response was enormous and rapid with over cops out numbering protesters by around 3 to 1. They ensured that the infrastructure for the site never got erected. The decision whether to evict the protesters lay with the Dean of Westminster. After negotiations and an intervention from John McDonnell MP the Dean refused to meet ILF recipients carrying out the protest and gave the police licence to move in and clear the site.
After nearly six hours protesters left the site to applause from supporters including groups who came on from Pride after seeing the social media coverage.
As all three of the protest hashtags trended on twitter one tweet read: “Is anything more scary than a few disabled people under a gazebo? The Met think not”
What the protest represented of course was a lot more than just a few disabled people which is why the response was so strong. One of the ways that the continued oppression of disabled people manifests is in holding us back from mobilising on a big scale and what we achieved on Saturday was testament to the power of solidarity and support from others who facilitated us to protest. It was an example of what we can do when we come together to unite and fight.
As we move towards mass strike action on 10th July DPAC sends solidarity to all our trade union allies. While the politicians fight with UKIP over who can be toughest on migrants we know that the Victorian values with which they justify their brutality come not from overseas but from elitist public schools like Eton (Cameron & co) and Dulwich college (fake ‘man of the people’ Farage).
We refuse to be fooled by their lies. We are here to point the finger firmly back at them, to make sure everybody knows what this government is doing and that there can be no more pretence that ‘we are all in it together’ from a government that is trampling on the rights of disabled people to participate in society as equals and attacking workers while the rich get richer.
On 4th July DPAC will be holding an ILF “Tea Party” outside DWP’s headquarters at Caxton House to continue the fight for disabled people’s rights and freedoms and to oppose Tory attacks on our class. We hope our trade union allies can join us or send messages of solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org