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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 February 2011

Defend the right to protest

Stop attacks on disabled claimants

on 24 January police 'kettled' a peaceful demonstration outside the central London headquarters of Atos Origin. John McDonnell MP has since tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons that 'commends' the demonstrators and expresses concern about the actions of the Metropolitan Police.

By a Unison member

Atos Origin is a focus for disabled people's anger because its health care division is contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to carry out the notorious Work Capability Assessment for people applying for Employment and Support Allowance and those on incapacity benefit.

Police stopped more than 50 protesters from entering Atos Origin's HQ and soon after used metal fences to surround them, restricting them to a small area with only one exit. This containment tactic was first used by the Met against members of the Disabled People's Direct Action Network more than a decade ago.

Concerns were raised with the police by Linda Burnip of Disabled People Against Cuts about the impact on people with serious mental health conditions who were held behind the barriers.

The police also refused to allow disabled protesters to use toilet facilities in the Atos HQ or a local gym. This included a pregnant woman with a guide dog.

Atos' so-called 'assessments' are forcing tens of thousands of disabled people onto Jobseeker's Allowance who have no hope of finding employment. It is also exposing them to a strict sanctions regime that many will fall foul of; particularly those with mental health conditions and learning difficulties.

This will increase as the reassessment of incapacity benefit and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants intensifies as part of the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition's plans to save billions. These policies are supported by Ed Miliband's Labour Party and have their roots in the previous Blair and Brown Labour administrations.

As anger grows against Atos Origin, disabled people will continue to demonstrate against this company. Trade unions should demand that their sponsored MPs sign John McDonnell's EDM, publicly defend the right of disabled people to protest, and campaign to reverse Labour's support for the attacks on incapacity benefit and DLA claimants.

Disabled activists also need to play a central role in the developing anti-cuts movement and ensure that opposition to cuts means all cuts. Questions also need to be asked of the UK Disabled People's Council and the National Centre for Independent Living - their 'opposition' to the Con-Dem cuts makes Nero's fiddling whilst Rome burned look decidedly proactive!

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In The Socialist 2 February 2011:

International socialist news and analysis

Egypt in revolt

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Defend the NHS!: Fight the Con-Dem cuts

The madness of King George cuts

Anti-cuts campaigning

Scottish Anti-Cuts Alliance established

Stop attacks on disabled claimants

Liverpool: Jobs axe must be fought

No to the racist EDL! Unite to fight the cuts

Hands off our forests!

Protesting against all of the cuts

Socialist Party news and analysis

Tommy Sheridan jailing: Political vendetta ends in draconian sentence

John Macreadie memorial

TV Review: Posh and Posher Why Public School Boys Run Britain

Socialist Party feature

'Struggle or starve!' 1932 - when Birkenhead workers beat the means test

Socialist Party youth and students

Young people march for a future

Tories have no solutions to youth crime

Police attack 'save EMA' protest in Leeds

Socialist Party workplace news

Justice for Unison Four

Unison self-destructs at TSA but unionism stronger than ever

Building action against cuts

Defending jobs at Leeds council

Ford challenged in legal bid: Pay the Visteon pensioners now!

Arriva Trains Wales - strike called off

Defend democracy in the CWU

Keep the post public demo

Discussing an electoral challenge to service cutters

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

'In reality, Britain is facing a savage economic ice age'


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