Disabled activists attacked after peaceful Atos protest
By John Millington
At the DWP
POLICE have attacked wheelchair-bound disability rights campaigners following a blockade of the Department for Work and Pensions earlier today.
Wheelchair activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and others had blockaded the DWP entrance, requesting to speak to government ministers about the role of Atos in back to work assessments for the disabled.
But without warning, 40 officers rushed the peaceful crowd, shoving protesters to the ground and aggressively man handling wheelchair users.
One activist who did not want to be named had to be rushed to hospital following complaining of feeling ill as the crush intensified.
Earlier he told the Dreadnaught why he felt the need to protest.
“I have had enough. I have nothing to lose anymore,” he said.
The controversial Paralympics sponsor has come in for mounting criticism with disabled people being declared fit to work, contradicting the medical advice from their own GP’s.
A recent BBC Panorama programme revealed that people had even died after being declared able to work by Atos.
And DPAC has insisted that suicide rates and disability hate crime have shot up, blaming Atos and mass media portrayals of disabled people as “benefit scroungers.”
Spokesman for DPAC Adam Lotun who was also manhandled by police in the melee told the Dreadnaught from inside the police cordon that he was “shocked” by the day’s events.
“I was disturbed how the wheelchairs were pushed around,” a shook up Mr Lotun said.
“One of our members had to be rushed to hospital. I understand they [the police] have a job to do. But it was very disturbing. That’s the only word I can use to describe what has happened.”
“I will be looking into and speaking to people about what has happened today.”
Earlier Mr Lotun confirmed that he would be standing as an independent candidate in the up coming parliamentary by-election in Corby, a seat previously held by former Conservative MP Louise Mensch.
A DWP spokesman said 15% of “fit for work” decisions were overturned on appeal and the system was subject to an annual review.
He said: “Since 2010 we have considerably improved the Work Capability Assessment process.
“As a result we are seeing an increase in the number of severely disabled people being given long-term unconditional support.”
The violent break up of the protest overshadowed what had been a colourful and peaceful day’s action by UKuncut and disabled activists.
Activists had held street theatre and waved placards outside Atos HQ in Euston earlier in the afternoon.
Disabled activist known as “Anne” told the Dreadnaught that she was protesting: “Atos are employing doctors to remove disability benefits. Why do they not trust our own NHS consultants?”
Anne, who is in the secondary progressive phase of multiple sclerosis, also suffers from a second condition where she could bleed to death.
She went on to explain that she had to reapply for her benefits despite her own GP and consultants all agreeing that she cannot work.
“I have had a stroke and was yesterday diagnosed with Lupus,” she said.
“I would work if I could but I need these benefits.”
She added: “But being here today is making me feel empowered. I’m sad that we have to do this and it moves me to tears.”