Posts Tagged ‘ATOS’

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan: Ten years ago on 28th September 2013 I photographed a protest in Parliament Square against the degrading and wholly unreliable tests administered by Atos to determine whether disabled peole qualify for benefits. The I continued to the Sudanese Embassy where a large crowd of Sudanese were calling for an end to the repressive regime in Sudan.


10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests – Parliament Square

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

10,000 White chrysanthemums were spread on the mud and grass of Parliament Square in an act of remembrance and solidarity for over 10,000 disabled peole who have died in the three months after being made to take the degrading Work Capability Assessments run for the government by Atos.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The 10,000 are largely made up of those who already have a terminal diagnosis but still have to come and submit to the tests for ther benefits to continue for their remaining few months of life. And despite compelling medical evidence many are refused benefits and said by Atos to be ‘Fit for work’.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The ceremony took place in the square bounded by the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court and the Treasury and was organised by the 10,000 Cuts & Counting Campaign which included disability activists, Occupy activists, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and others who recognise that lives are being devastated by the government’s austerity programme.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The campaigners do not claiming that the test itself kills the 10,000, although some have been driven to commit suicide after being failed by Atos, but that such tests adminstered in the final days of life are unfeeling, unnecessary and persecute the sick and dying.

Sophie Partridge reads the words of Karen Sherlock who died in 2012 after endess pressure and loss of benefits.

A number of disabled people and a mother of three disabled children gave moving testimonies with many damning indictments of the failures of Atos and the Department of Work and Pensions and their lack of understading of the needs of the disabled. They had not been treated with dignity or humanity, with deliberately discriminatory policies, targets to be met, arbitrary decisions and bureaucratic incompetence. And there was a period of silence and prayers to the four corners of the square.

The Tories had obviously seen the disabled as an easy touch for cuts, thinking they would be unable to defend themselves, but organisations such as DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, have signally proved them wrong. Many of the disabled have become desperate and have been some of the most prominent and most effective protesters, not least because the police have great difficulties (and some sympathy) in dealing with them. Arresting people in wheelchairs isn’t easy.

More at 10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests.


Sudanese Call for Regime Change – Sudanese Embassy

I left Parliament Square where the protest was still continuing with a number of people including MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn as well as several disabled activists still waiting to speak to rush to the Sudanese Embassy in Cleveland Row at the end of Pall Mall.

There a noisy crowd of around a hundred were in a protest pen calling for Omar al-Bashir and the National Congress Party to resign. The London protest was in solidarity with those that have been taking place in Khartoum over rises in fuel prices and corruption over the past six days. The protests there have been brutally attacked by the regime.

The protesters in London from ‘Sudan Change Now’ and the ‘National Sudanese Women Alliance’ see the government as a total failure in managing the country for over 23 years, presiding over a political, economic and social collapse.

They say the government disrespects the Sudanese people and ignores their education and health, with all the money going into ‘security’ spending, which does not make the people secure but is used to repress the people and fight wars, with many of the best Sudanese men and women being killed in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.

Under the regime of Omar al-Bashir, the judicial system was base on Sharia Law, with stoning, flogging, whipping, hanging and even crucifixtion. Some saw the protests in Khartoum as the start of an ‘Arab Spring’ movement which would lead to regime change but it was not until 2019 that al-Bashir was deposed in a coup d’état, then arrested, tried and convicted on multiple corruption charges.

More pictures at Sudanese Call for Regime Change.


Hardest Hit March Against Cuts – 2011

Thursday, May 11th, 2023

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts: On Wednesday 11th March 2011 around 10,000 people, many in wheelchairs came to march in London calling for an end to harassment and benefit cuts for the disabled.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The Hardest Hit march was supported by a huge range of charities and organisations representing and supporting the physically and mentally disabled, including major unions such as PCS, UCU and Unite.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The protest came a year after the formation of the coalition government led by David Cameron with Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg as his deputy, with real power staying with the Tory majority and is now widely seen as a disaster for the Lib-Dems. Under Chancellor George Osborne the coalition plunged the country into the start of ten years of austerity, with particularly swingeing cuts to local government services as well as a drastic attack on all those claiming benefits.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The cuts disproportionately affected the poor and the disabled while the wealthiest in our society were hardly if at all affected. In 2018 the UN special rapporter on extreme poverty concluded his visit to the UK by reminding us that ‘Poverty is a political choice‘ and that ‘Austerity could easily have spared the poor, if the political will had existed to do so’.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

For the disabled and those on benefits there were cuts and freezes and the situation was made worse by the ignorance and incompetence of Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2010 to 2016.

It was under Labour in October 2008 that Work Capability Assessments were introduced but the numbers made before 2010 were relatively small and they were used for new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants and a small number of ESA reassessments. It was only in Spring 2011 under the coalition government that a programme began to move those on existing benefits onto ESA using the WCA tests administered by Atos began.

Already by 2011 there had been serious criticisms both of the unsatisfactory nature of the tests and of the failures by Atos to administer them correctly, and this protest march called both for an end to the cuts in benefits for the disabled and “and in particular for an end to the discredited and iniquitous testing regime administered by Atos Healthcare, which has replaced proper medical tests by a computer-based system that often ignores the actual needs of those being assessed, and has as unacceptably high error rate, with a majority of appeals against its assessments succeeding.

The Braille spells out SHAFTED

Despite the huge body of evidence and the many deaths the system caused, only minor changes were made and it was not until 2014 that the contract with Atos was ended, only for them to be replaced by Maximus who carried on the same way. Atos, now renamed IAS, remains now a part of the assessment system for ESA, Universal Credit and PIP along with Maximus and Capita.

Both New Labour and the Coalition made cuts in many positive projects and organisations set up to help the disabled. One of these was Remploy, whose last state-run sheltered factory set up to employ disabled labour closed in 2013 with the loss of over 1700 jobs. It is now a part of Maximus.

This protest got more media attention than most, largely because of the presence among those leading the march of Sally Bercow, the wife of the then Speaker of the Commons, and actress and activist Jane Asher, president of three of the organisations involved, Arthritis Care, National Autistic Society and Parkinson’s UK. It was followed by a mass lobby of MPs.

Since then there have been many more protests against the unfair treatment of the disabled as various benefits have been scrapped and Universal Credit has led to further problems, but nothing on this scale. Disabled people have not only suffered most they have also become some of the more active protesters, particularly led by groups that were on this march including Disable People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Winvisible, Black Triangle and others.

This ‘Hardest Hit’ march came during a ‘National Week of Action Against Atos Origin‘ organised by disability activists, claimant groups and anti-cuts campaigners and two days earlier they had protested outside the offices of Atos Healthcare in London. You can see more on My London Diary in Disabled Protest Calls Atos Killers.

More at Hardest Hit March Against Cuts.


Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

Sunday, February 19th, 2023

Wednesday 19th February 2014 saw me travelling around London for protests calling for the release of political prisoners in Iraq, Ireland and Egypt before a protest at Atos’s offices led by DPAC.


Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar – Elvaston Place

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

The vigil outside the Iraqi consulate in Kensington was a small one, with only four people taking part while I was there, though a few more were expected later.

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen held and tortured in Iraq by US and Iraqis since his arrest in 2004, was then held in Abu Ghraib. Arrested by US soldiers while on a business trip he was held by the US in Iraq and tortured but never charged. Later in 2010 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail after a trial where he was unable to defend or even properly identify himself as the US had refused to hand him back his passport. When they left Iraq and handed him over to the Iraqis, who tortured him more.

His treatment has been described by former Attorney General of the United States Ramsey Clark as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent United States history. It is a case where the US government essentially lied to the US Supreme Court to cover up torture and to be able to turn an American citizen over to people who they knew would torture him.

I had previously met Omar’s wife and daughter – who has never seen her father – on some of their series of protests outside the US Embassy. So far as I am aware he is now still in prison in Iraq.

Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar


Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket – Irish Embassy

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

My next stop was at the Irish Embassy, a short walk from Hyde Park Corner. It was the third picket there to demand the immediate release of Margaretta D’Arcy, imprisoned for protesting against illegal US flights from Shannon Airport, and now in Mountjoy Women’s Prison, Dublin.

D’Arcy, a long-term peace campaigner, member of the Committee of 100 and Greenham Common veteran and writer, actress, playwright and film director, was then 79 and suffering from cancer and arthritis. Two years earlier she had been arrested and imprisoned for lying down on the runway at Shannon in a peaceful direct action by members of Galway Alliance Against War. They were protesting the violation of Irish neutrality by US military flights using the airport.

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

She was again imprisoned in 2014 after she refused to sign a bond not to trespass again on the airport property in further protests against the US flights. She was released on 22nd March, but later imprisoned again and released in July 2014.

Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket


NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists – Egyptian Embassy

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

A few minutes walk took me into Mayfair and to a protest organised by my own union, the National Union of Journalists, calling for press freedom in Egypt and the release of all jailed journalists, including the four Al Jazeera journalists.

One of these had been in prison for 6 months, but the other three were arrested on 29th December 2013 and were among 20 journalists charged at the end of January with a string of offences including being a “member of a terrorist organization, disturbing public peace, instilling terror, harming the general interests of the country, possessing broadcast equipment without permit, possessing and disseminating images contrary to the truth.

The NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn took a letter up the steps to the main door of the embassy for a photograph but then had to walk to a less impressive neighbouring door to actually deliver it.

This was one of a number of protests organised by journalists in cities around the world. Some of those present had their mouths gagged with tape. The journalists were only finally released in 2015. Wikipedia has more on the case.

Reporters Without Borders now report “Egypt is one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists. The hopes for freedom that sprang from the 2011 revolution now seem distant.” They say that 24 journalists are currently held there in jail.

NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists


Atos National Day of Action – Triton Square

Paula Peters of DPAC

Finally I made my way to Triton Square, just north of the Euston Road, close to Warren Street station.

Dennis Skinner MP speaking

A day of action there at the London HQ of Triton was a part of a day of action with protests at each of the 144 ATOS assessment centres around the country. The protesters called for the company to lose its contracts to carry out the tests and to be prosecuted for the way they had been handled, and for the resignation of the minister concerned, Iain Duncan Smith.

Among the many groups supporting the nationwide day of action were Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle, Atos Miracles, the Green Party, NUS, Occupy New Network, PCS and Unite.

The tests, based on tick boxes on a computer form had been widely discredited with a report commissioned by the government pointing out serious flaws. They fail to take account of the complex and differing natures of illnesses and their individual effects and are particularly poor with the assessment of mental illness.

Many of those found ‘fit to work’ have been obviously completely unable to do so – with over ten thousand in the last year for which figures were released dying within six weeks. The government reaction to the adverse publicity after these figures for 2011 were released was simply to stop issuing figures for later years. These numbers include some who committed suicide after being unfairly assessed by Atos.

The Atos administered tests take no account of proper medical evidence. The protesters call for the assessments to be made by qualified medical doctors, ideally by “the GP who regularly sees and treats the sick or disabled individual in question” who they say “is the only person able to decide if an individual is fit for work.”

At the end of the long protest, those remaining moved to the wider square in view of the Euston Road and released yellow balloons in memory of those who have taken their lives because of ATOS unfairly refused them support as Paula Peters of DPAC read a poem about the deaths.

Much more about the protest at Atos National Day of Action on My London Diary – and, as always, more pictures.


Disabled Protest at BBC in London

Friday, September 2nd, 2022
Disabled Protest at BBC in London
“Hands OFf” protester Andy Greene tells BBC secuirty

Disabled Protest at BBC in London: On Monday 2nd September 2013 I went with disablement protesters, some in wheelchairs, who were protesting at Broadcasting House in London at the BBC’s failure to report truthfully the effects of government cuts, particularly on the disabled. They blocked the main BBC entrance for an hour, with some locking themselves to the doors.

Disabled Protest at BBC in London
DPAC activists meet in McDonalds near the BBC

The BBC eventually called the police, who arrived not long before the protest was to end, and when they told the police this, the police stood back and watched until they did pack up and leave. Of course the protest was only a minor inconvenience to the BBC as there are alternative entrances which people were able to use.

They join hands before going to the BBC

At one point a BBC TV cameraman turned up who had been asked to film the protesters. I joked with them that perhaps he would be able to sell his footage to ITV news as it was most unlikely that it would be shown by the BBC. And I was correct in that there was no mention of the protest at all on BBC news programmes. Perhaps a few years later the footage might appear in some feature about disabled people.

The protesters took turns in speaking out about the failure of the BBC to report the real hardship caused by ATOS assessments and the withdrawal of benefits, benefit cuts and caps and the bedroom tax. All were fed up with the BBC repeating the lies and half-truths of government and asked why the real problems and numerous deaths from the austerity programme and the protests over these were not being properly reported.

Outside the main BBC entrance

The situation was critical for many poor and disabled people, with over 500,000 having to resort to food banks set up by churches and charities to fend off starvation. The protesters chanted ‘BBC, Tell the Truth’ and requested someone from the BBC to come and discuss the issue with them – but no one would.

They made clear they were not asking for special treatment for the disabled, but for full, accurate and impartial reporting – something the BBC once had a reputation for, but sadly no more.

They were joined by chance by activist comedian Mark Thomas who had been inside the BBC when they arrived. Some had recently met him during his ‘Mass Miracle’ performance outs Atos’s Edinburgh office which had been a part of the previous months Edinburgh fringe. He was persuaded to speak briefly and gave his support to the protest, praising the protesters for coming to make their views known to the BBC.

I have mixed feelings about the BBC which still does produce some fine programmes but also I think has failed in many ways. Although they are supposedly independent they are very much an establishment mouthpiece and they very much work from the point of view of the wealthier parts of our class-ridden society.

BBC Security failed to persuade them to move

Journalist Emily Maitlis has recently spoken out about the ‘Tory cronyism at the heart of the BBC’ and their misguided approach to impartiality which led, for example, to climate deniers being given equal prominence to the huge body of scientific evidence over the extreme dangers of climate change.

Protesters took turns to speak about the effect of the cuts

Maitlis is clearly an accomplished journalist and presenter with a long and successful career. But she was in a very well paid post at the BBC, is married to an investment manager and lives and works in a very different world to the great majority of the British people. At least she was one of relatively few in such positions who was educated at a state school (though certainly not a bog-standard one) before going to Cambridge.

Eventually police arrived – and protesters told them they would leave shortly

But for years it has been clear that we can not rely on the BBC for a comprehensive view of events in the UK and around the world. If you want to be well-informed about what is happening and why you need to look and listen to other sources – including the BBC’s own World Service, and other UK and foreign news services (which often have a very different bias), as well as alternative UK media such as Double Down News, Novara Media and The Canary.

But the BBC has increasingly come under threats from governments who control its purse-strings – if at a slight distance. I don’t pay a licence fee because I don’t view TV but do listen to BBC radio for an hour or two most days, though usually with half and ear while doing other things. The BBC is still much better in many ways than the commercial alternatives and in a different league to those in some other countries – such as the USA.

More pictures at DPAC at BBC – Tell The Truth.


DPAC End Week of Protest Against Atos

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

DPAC End Week of Protest Against Atos: In August 2012 Disabled People Against the Cuts and UK Uncut organised the week of action as a protest against the sick spectacle of Atos, the company who pressures its staff to unfairly declare disabled people ‘fit for work’ so as to increase its profits and meet government targets, bathing in the glory of sponsoring the Paralympic games. The week ended with two protests on Friday 31st August.


Closing Atos Ceremony – Triton Square

Protests earlier in the week had included a spoof Paralympic opening ceremony next to Tower Bridge, then decorated with a giant paralympic symbol hanging from its upper level, a vigil at Westminster and a memorial service outside the Atos head office to remember the people who have lost their lives at the hands of Atos Healthcare. There had been protests too in other cities – with 40 protesters as corpses in the road stopping traffic, and at the actual Paralympic opening many of the contestants covered up the Atos name on their lanyards as a protest against their involvement as sponsors.

Among those protesting earlier in the week was Tara Flood, a former Paralympian who represented GB at three Paralympic games and whose gold-medal winning time at the 1992 Barcelona games remains a world record. She reflected the feeling of many disabled people when she stated: “It is a shocking irony that Atos is a main sponsor of London 2012 whilst destroying disabled people’s lives on behalf of the government.”

Over 500 came to Atos’s offices in Triton Square for a peaceful protest at the end of the week on Friday 31st August 2012. It had a festival atmosphere, with music and dancing, poppers, brightly coloured plastic water pistols and some fancy dress along the the usual banners and placards, but there was no mistaking the anger against Atos, evident in the slogans on the placards and chants of ‘Atos Kills!’

The target-driven computer-based work capability assessments delivered by Atos cause extreme hardship and misery to many disabled – and death to some. Last year 1,100 claimants died after Atos tests placed them on compulsory work-related activity to gain benefits, and others found ‘fit for work’ and so left without income have committed or attempted suicide.

Among conditions that Atos tests have found to have no bearing on fitness for work have been fatal heart conditions, terminal breast and kidney cancer and severe MS.

In one long street theatre performance disabled people who truly wanted to be freed of their disabilities were urged by ‘Atos’s own Reverend’ to come forward and go through the ‘Atos Miracle Cure’ archway, and several, mainly in wheelchairs, did so. Nothing seemed to happen to them, and they were disappointed, even after the ‘Rev’ had blessed them and patted them on the head, but then an ‘Atos doctor’ in a white coat came to assess them, and lo! she gave them each a certificate that they were now fit to work, and, even more miraculous, a job. But it was all a con!

By the time the ceremony ended I had left and was making my way to the Department of Work and Pensions offices, Caxton House, in Westminster, having been tipped off that disabled activists had entered and occupied them.

More at Closing Atos Ceremony.


DPAC Occupy Dept of Work & Pensions – Westminster

Traffic was heavy in London – I should have taken the tube. By the time I arrived there were around 20 or so protesters outside with banners in front of the entrance. Behind them were a block of around a dozen police in several rows in the fairly narrow outer lobby, and behind them I could see more police and a few protesters.

Shortly after me more arrived from the event outside the Atos offices, including quite a few in wheelchairs and formed a fairly large crowd, spilling out into the street.

Adam Lotun and spoke briefly about the reasons for the week of actions against Atos and announcing the struggle would continue and as a part of that he would be standing in the Corby by-election.

A few late arrivals tried to push past the police to join those already in the building, but as well as police there were people in wheelchairs and the media in their way and they had little chance of success. The situation became rather confused, but soon police reinforcements arrived and pushed the crowd back a few yards away from the doorway.


March for a People’s Olympics

Thursday, July 28th, 2022

Ten years ago on July 27th 2012, as the London 2012 Olympics were getting underway in Stratford, people, mainly from the local area, marched to call for an end to the corporate takeover of the Olympics and the draconian policing and military presence largely aimed at the protection of brands and for the games to meet its legacy promises.

The authorities had done their damnedest to stop the protest taking place – first they had tried to ban it altogether, then Transport for London had refused permission for them to march along any roads which were emergency backup Games routes. But protesters agreed with police that they would leave the road if there was any emergency. Tower Hamlets council tried to ban any speeches or other events on Wennington Green where the march ended, and protesters were threatened they would be arrested if they carried banners, placards or t-shirts with political messages – though it was hard to see any legal basis for doing so.

The ‘Whose Games? Whose City?’ protest went ahead despite the threats, with only one small incident when police seized and searched a man who had cut a piece of police tape. A crowd of marchers supported them and shouted for his release and after a few minutes he was set free without charge and the march continued.

The threats and public controversy had doubtless persuaded many not to come to the event, where around 500 marchers mingled with press and TV from around the world at the starting point in Mile End Park at midday. The organisers, the Counter Olympics Network (CON) had made clear that they were not against the Olympics as a sporting event but against the way it had been taken over by corporate interests. In my long account of the event on My London Diary I quoted from several of their statements, including:

"the close ties between the Olympic brand and its corporate sponsors who, despite IOC claims of vetting on ethical grounds, include serial polluters, companies which seriously damage the environment and which wreck or take lives, Coca Cola, Rio Tinto, BP, Dow Chemical. G4S, Cisco, and Atos deny people their human rights in a variety of situations while Macdonalds helps to fuel the obesity epidemic. London2012 provides benefits at taxpayers’ expense while receiving little in return."

CON also pointed out the many broken promises made about the games and the very doubtful legacy the games will leave, particularly in East London.

"the lack of benefits for local people and businesses, the fantastic expansion of security into our daily lives, the deployment of missiles and large numbers of troops, the unwarranted seizure of public land at Wanstead Flats, Leyton Marsh and Greenwich Park."
A man celebrates after the crowd made police release him

Later in his speech on Wennington Green, Chris Nineham of the Stop The Olympic Missiles Campaign declared that the London Olympics had already set a number of records, including the largest ever number of arrests on the first day, the highest ticket prices, the most intensive application of branding rules and the highest level of militarisation of any Olympic games, with far more being spent on security that even in China. There were now more troops in London than at any time since World War 2, and more than at any time in Afghanistan, where our military activities were now making us a terrorist target in London. Among the other speakers was Melanie Strickland, one of the 182 ‘Critical Mass’ cyclists arrested the previous night for riding near the Olympic stadium.

Industry on the Olympic site, Marshagate Lane, 1990

I had known and photographed the Olympic area since the early 1980s until the public were all excluded from the vast site in 2007 and after when we were only able to peer over the blue fence. In 2010 I brought out a book ‘Before The Olympics’ which included many pictures of the area in the thirty years or so before they took place, as well as looking more widely along the length of the River Lea and the Navigation. Most people miss that parts of the area were formerly thriving industrial and commercial sites, others a verdant wilderness – and of course some thriving allotments. Of course there have been some benefits following 2012 – more housing is something London desperately needs, but much was already being planned before the bid succeeded. But the park remains to me deeply disappointing.

Allotments on the Olympic site, April 2007

The book is still available and you should be able to view a preview at ‘Before the Olympics‘ though Blurb appears to be having some problems at the moment; it is a ridiculously highly priced softback, but there is a more reasonable PDF version. The book includes many of my pictures of the area which are also on my The Lea Valley web site including mainly black and white images from the 1980s and 90s and colour from the 2000s. Later images from before and after 2012 are on various pages of My London Diary. There is a large collection of the black and white images in my Flickr album River Lea – Lea Navigation 1981-1992 including many from what became the Olympic site.


PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners – On Wednesday 13th July 2016 I photographed two protests about the inadequate and badly run Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, a protest supporting a cross-party bill to save the NHS from privatisation, a party against replacing Trident and the longest running strike in the history of the City of London.


PIP Fightback at Vauxhall – Vauxhall

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The hardest part of photographing the protest at the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre was actually finding the place, hidden away in a back street. This was one of around 20 protests around the country at the centres where ATOS carry out sham Personal Independence Payments ‘assessments’ on behalf of the DWP.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The assessments are almost solely designed to save money for the DWP, enabling them to ignore medical evidence of need and are carried out by people who are given a financial incentive to fail claimants. They often mean that genuine claimants lose essential benefits for months before they are restored on appeal. They have led to many becoming desperate, with some needing hospital treatment and a few have committed suicide after being failed.

PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


NHS Bill protest at Parliament – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood was later in the day presenting a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles.

People from various campaigns had come out to support the bill, which although it had no chance of progressing into law did lead to a greater awareness of the privatisation which is slowly but apparently inevitably putting our NHS into the hands of private, mainly American, health companies, and eroding its basic principles.

Among those who came out to speak was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott.

NHS Bill protest at Parliament


Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster

Campaigners from Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies along with ATOS responsible for carrying out the shoddy cash-saving PIP assessments.

In particular these assessments are unfair on many claimants whose conditions vary day to day including many with mental health issues. The assessments make no allowances for this and fail to take any account of the medical evidence in coming to their conclusions.

After protesting for some time on the very busy pavement where there were a number of speakers, Paula Peters of DPAC led the group out into the the middle of Victoria Street where they stood with banners and in wheelchairs blocking traffic.

They then marched the short distance to the DWP headquarters in Caxton St, holding a further protest with speakers in the road outside.

Finally they marched past the Houses of Parliament to College Green where the media had set up their ‘Westminster village’ crowded with cameras for Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. Police stopped them as they tried to go onto the grass in front of the TV cameras, and for some time they stood along the side before finally ignoring the police and going on to the green. Where the TV crews ignored the protest.

Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster


Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party – Parliament Square

CND members and supporters were today lobbying MPs against plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion.

In Parliament Square they had organised a ‘Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party’ and there were various Christian groups with placards placards stating the opposition by churches of the different denominations to the replacement, with Buddhists from the Battersea Peace Pagoda adding their support.

Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party


Solidarity for Wood St Cleaners – City of London

Finally I went to the heart of the CIty of London where a rally was taking place in support of cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning at the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE.

By 13th July this had already become the longest-running strike ever in the City of London and it continued into August. The UVW say:

As days became weeks, the inconvenience for white-collar workers at 100 Wood Street rightly turned into a major embarrassment for their employers, and especially for CBRE, the managers of the building. City of London police were called many times, security staff were intimidating, and the tenants were barely coping with a trickle of the former cleaning operation. Eventually, after a surprise flashmob in the CBRE’s lobby, and then a big march to mark the 50th consecutive day, the decision was taken after 61 days to raise all their pay to the London Living Wage!

https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/campaigns/100-wood-street/

Many more pictures at Solidarity for Wood St cleaners.


10 Years Ago – London, Atos & Guantanamo

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

10 Years Ago – London, Atos & Guantanamo – 3rd Feb 2012


London Walking

I was early for the protest I had come to photograph so I took a little walk around the area just north of the Euston Rd. I’d used Transport for London’s Journey Planner, but forgotten that this sometimes hugely exaggerates the time taken to make changes between trains and between train and bus for those familiar with routes. Walking helped stop me from completely freezing with the temperature around zero and a cutting wind. Some days even thermal underclothing isn’t enough.

Later I walked around Kings Cross looking for a protest outside a place that didn’t seem to exist – I think the organisers had got the address wrong – but in any case I could find nothing happening in the area and then went to get a bus and photographed the St Pancras hotel from near the bus stop. Eventually my bus came.

London Walking


Disabled Protest Supports the Atos Two

Disabled people and their supporters braved freezing weather to stage an hour-long protest outside the UK offices of Atos, protesting against the unfair testing of fitness to work and benefit cuts and supporting the ‘Atos 2’.

The Atos 2 were a wheelchair user and a pensioner, Notts Uncut activists who were charged with ‘aggravated trespass’ after peacefully entering an Atos assessment centre in Nottingham on a National Day of Action Against Atos and the Benefit Cuts last December. The charges were eventually dropped but the arrest and illegal confiscation of video material marked a new and disturbing attitude by police towards peaceful protest. There was another protest in Nottingham at the same time as that in London.

Disabled Protest Supports the Atos Two


London Guantánamo Campaign Candlelit Vigil

The London Guantánamo Campaign marked 5 years of regular protest at the US Embassy and over 10 years of illegal detention with a candlelit vigil, calling for the shutting down of the camp and the return of UK residents Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

Ahmed Belbacha was eventually released without charge in 2014, having been twice cleared for release in 2007 and 2009. He had come to the UK from Algeria as an asylum seeker and lived and worked here for a couple of years before his claim was rejected, after which he went to Pakistan to study the Koran. He made a visit to Afghanistan and was arrested on his way back to Pakistan.

Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen and legal UK resident married to a British woman who was applying for British citizenship went with his family to work for an Islamic charity in Afghanistan in 2001. He was arrested by Afghans and handed to the US in return for a ransom. Again he was cleared for release in 2007 and 2009, but continued to be held until October 2015.

London Guantánamo Campaign Candlelit Vigil


Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad

Sunday, January 16th, 2022

Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad
January 16th 2013 was an unusually busy day for protests in London on a Wednesday, though not all were quite what they seemed.

My working day started a short walk from Notting Hill Gate station, where a small group of protesters had come to take part in an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, one of the three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral the previous February.

Alyokhina was sent to serve two years in a prison camp at Perm in Siberia, one of the Soviet Unions harshest areas and was appearing in court that day to plea for her sentence to be suspended so she could raise her son, born in 2008, until he is 14.

She was kept in prison until 13th December 2013 when she was released under an amnesty bill by the Russian Duma, and since has continued her political activism, suffering further arrests and assaults. Last year – 2021 – she served two 15 day prison sentences before being put on a year’s parole.

The protest on the main road close to the Russian Embassy which is hidden down a very private street was scheduled to last three hours, and had got off to a slow start, with some of those arriving deciding to go away for coffee and come back later. Numbers were expected to rise later, but I couldn’t wait as I was due at another protest at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

I arrived at the vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice to find there was also a second protest taking place. I had come to meet disabled protesters who were supporting a tribunal hearing of a judicial review of Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act as they are not accessible for those with mental health conditions.

Those taking part included members of the Mental Health Resistance Network, MHRN, Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC, Winvisible, Greater London Pensioners Association and others, including members of the Counihan family and PCS members who work at the court.

Speakers at the rally reminded us of the special problems with the Work Capability Assessments for many with mental health conditions, as these are often spasmodic. On good days claimants may not seem very ill and seem fit for work, while on bad days they may be unable to attend an assessment and for this reason be automatically judged fit for work.

Their press release included the statement:
‘Dozens of disabled people are dying every week following assessment. Nearly 40% of those who appeal the decision to remove benefits have the decision overturned, meaning thousands of people are wrongly being put through a traumatic and harrowing experience needlessly. The governments own appointed assessor of the policy has ruled it ‘unfit for purpose’… This would not be acceptable in any other government contract, yet goes without comment or sanction by this government. No-one is called to account, no-one takes responsibility.’

Also protesting outside the courts were the ‘Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom)’ who claimed that a child who has never been diagnosed with any mental illness was being dosed with a dangerous anti-psychotic drug prescribed by a psychiatrist. Wikimedia describes the group as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists’ and was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

The court backed them in the particular case concerned, though most of the information about it was confidential and the court decision may not have been confirmed by the family court.

Among those taking part in their protest was a man in a white coat at the protest holding pill bottles representing the drugs they described as redundant and unscientific and instead promoting the benefits of ASEA, which appears to be an unscientific scam, promoted by dubious means. Basically salt water, the web site ‘Science-Based Medicine’ concluded: “The only value of the product is the entertainment value that can be derived from reading the imaginative pseudoscientific explanations they have dreamed up to sell it.”

Finally I went to Grosvenor Square for a protest outside the US Embassy where protesters, including members of ‘Veterans for Peace’, were holding a vigil in solidarity with Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, on day 963 of his pretrial detention while his defence argued in court for charges to be dismissed for lack of a ‘speedy trial.’

They stood holding placards in silence while the audio of a 45 minute video, ‘Collateral Murder’ allegedly leaked by Manning to Wikileaks was played on a PA system. The video clearly shows US forces committing war crimes and has become a symbol of the need for Wikileaks and ‘for courageous whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning.’

The protest was one of a series organised by WISE Up Action, a Solidarity Network for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and after the vigil at the US Embassy many of those taking part were going to the daily vigil outside the Ecuadorian embassy where Assange was then inside having been granted asylum and under threat of arrest by British police should he leave. But it had been a long day and I decided it was time for me to leave for home before ‘Collateral Murder’ finished playing.

More at:
Stand with Brad at US Embassy
Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids
Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments
Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


10,000 Disabled Dead

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

On 28th September 2013, disabled activists and supporters came to Parliament Square for ‘10,000 Cuts & Counting’, a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for over 10,000 who died shortly after the degrading Work Capability Assessments run for the government by Atos.

The figure of 10,000 is the number who died in the 3 months following the degrading Atos-administered tests used by the government intended to assess the needs of people receiving benefits related to disability and ill health. The campaigners are not claiming that the test itself killed people, although some have been driven to commit suicide after being failed by Atos, but that such tests administered in the final days of life are unfeeling, unnecessary and persecute the sick and dying.

At the event we heard moving personal testimonies by disabled people and a mother of three disabled children, with many damning indictments of the failures of Atos and the Department of Work and Pensions, both failing to understand the needs of the disabled and not treating them with dignity and humanity, and of deliberately discriminatory policies, arbitrary decisions and bureaucratic incompetence.

Parliament Square was covered with 10,000 while flowers, one for each of the dead, and there was 2 minutes of silent remembrance for those who have suffered and died.

The silence was followed by four prayers facing the four sides of the square; prayers facing Westminster Abbey for the families of those who have suffered and disabled people still suffereing or despairing; facing the Supreme Court calling for justice and compassion for those without resources and power and for an end to discrimination and violence against the disabled; towards the Treasury calling on those in national and local government who decide on the use of resources to take into account the effect on people of what they do; and finally towards Parliament, calling for a new deal for disabled people and to put right the evident wrongs in the current system.

Unfortunately the prayers were not heard by those in power. The government’s response? They stopped issuing the figures on which this event was based.

More at 10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.