Not going quietly
POLICEMAN trying move disabled people who chained wheelchairs together to block busy street by Trafalgar Square. "We are not going to go quietly into the night".
"THEY have picked on the wrong people". This excellent picture was taken by Louise Whittle, who was at today's demonstration and blogs as Harpy Marx (see link below).
THERE was a BBC reporter in Trafalgar Square today, talking about - what else? - the Olympics. Not that anything was going on so far as I could see. But while both the Beeb and ITN were doing their best to arouse interest in the costly Games to come, something was happening around the corner and off camera, which perhaps we were not meant to see.
Disabled people, many of them in wheelchairs, blocked two busy road junctions around the square by chaining themselves and their chairs together in a line, with security locks. They were protesting the Con Dem government's welfare reforms, the use made of firms like Atos to declare people "fit for work" in order to deprive them of benefits, and the planned closure of Remploy factories which currently employ 2,000 people.
As a south London Remploy worker told a meeting of trade unionists recently "We won't go quietly into the night. We won't go quietly anywhere".
Planned cuts to the Disability Living Allowance could see 500,000 disabled people losing money, the charity Mencap has said.
Today's demonstration was organised by Disabled People Against the Cuts (Dpac). It lasted for two hours before police had to use bolt cutters to remove the chains. A BBC report had mentioned "traffic delays" in the vicinity without giving the reason.
"We are fed up with being vilified as scroungers by successive governments," said Dpac co-founder Debbie Jolly, from Leicester. "We are sick of hearing about disabled people who have died from neglect and lack of services or who have committed suicide because services and benefits were withdrawn from them. We want to make sure politicians know we will not accept these attacks on our lives any longer."
"It has been great," said Adam Lotum, 49, a father who recently lost his Disability Living Allowance due to the cuts. "People are talking about the issue now and we hope that that message is getting through to government – the message that they have picked on the wrong group – we are not going to stand for it any longer."
There could be a connection between today's demonstration and TV non-coverage and the build-up before the Olympics. Commentators and politicians interviewed today spoke about their fears that the Olympics, which are disrupting the lives of many Londonders, might themselves be disrupted by "protesters". They did not say that one group talking about such protests are disabled campaigners. That might risk arousing public sympathy with the protests.
Meanwhile there's a meeting on Thursday evening April 19 to Fight the Remploy Closures. Speakers include GMB Remploy national convenor Les Woodward, John McDonnell MP, Gail Cartmail who is Unite assistant general secretary, and Rob Murthwaite from Disabled People Against Cuts.
The meeting is at 7.30pm at the University of London Union, Malet Street, WC1E 7HY
On Friday there will be a demonstration starting midday outside the Department of Work and Pensions, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA, and moving on to a rally at Old Palace Yard, SW1P 3JY.
There is another Save Remploy meeting called next week, on Thursday April 26, 6.30pm at Faraday House, 48-51 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3AE. Speakers will be Remploy workers past and present. Organisers say "You've heard what the government has to say, now hear from the workers." They are calling on all to "join us in the fight to save Remploy!"