Posts Tagged ‘disabled’

London 22nd October 2014

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

ILF

The Independent Living Fund enabled many disabled people to continue to live with dignity and to work making a positive contribution to society and the government decision to close it led to many protests and to legal actions to try and stop it under the Equality Act.

Although a court ruled that the minister concerned had acted illegally, all it required was that the new minister reconsidered the plans. He did so, and decided to go ahead, though with a three month delay. And a judge ruled in December 2014 that although in axing the ILF he knew that the closure would mean many disabled people would lose their ability to live independently in the community his decision was legal.

The decision to end ILF was clearly wrong, clearly immoral, but so long as the legal niceties were observed the government was able to go ahead with it, and our law gave no protection.

The vigil outside the court while the case was being heard attracted wide support, including from Inclusion London, Norfolk and Suffolk DPAC local DPACs, the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Transport for All, Winvisable, PCS Union, the TUC, and other organisations,and there was even a simultaneous vigil in Toronto, Canada. Three MPs, John McDonnell, Andy Slaughter and Jeremy Corbyn, came to give their support, and there were speeches by campaigners including Paula Peters and Andy Greene, with John Kelly singing.

As expected the vigil ended with a short direct action by DPAC and others, briefly blocking the Strand outside the law courts.

Free Shaker Aamer

This was one of a long series of regular vigils opposite Parliament for Shaker Aamer, an innocent charity worker arrested by bandits and handed over to US forces who have imprisoned and tortured him for over 12 years. He was cleared for release in 2007 but remained in Guantanamo with our government failing to press for his release because his testimony could embarrass MI6 as well as the US.

London Panoramas

I had time before another protest to visit an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands and on the journey to pause and make some panoramic images.

Probably the most interesting were inside Westminster station, where “the beams and buttresses, designed by Hopkins Architects and completed in 1999 for the opening of the Jubilee Line are also the foundations of the block of parliamentary offices above the station, Portcullis House, and were deliberately Piranesian, though sometimes I get more of the feeling of Escher as you seem to walk endlessly up escalators and around the interior.”

Democracy Camp – Poet Arrested

I returned to Parliament Square where the Democracy Camp was still holding workshops, though police and the GLA ‘heritage wardens’ had fenced off the main grass area.

Danny, one of the protesters had been sitting on the plinth next to the statue of Churchill since the previous afternoon and poet Martin Powell arrived with a pot of food for him, which he tossed up to him, going straight into his hands, despite police warning him he could be arrested.

How can feeding the hungry be a crime?” he asked and he was arrested and led away in handcuffs around two sides of Parliament Squareperforming his poem ‘The Missing Peace’. I left while Danny was still on the plinth, though later that evening police finally found a ladder and brought him down after over 26 hours.

Musical Poor Doors

It was Class War’s 14th weekly protest at the ‘rich door’ of Redrow’s One Commercial St flats and it was a lively affair, with the banners dancing to the music of Rhythms of Resistance, a poetic performance and some rousing speeches against social apartheid.

There were a lot of police present and some stood in front of the door and ushered a few people in and out but made no attempt to stop the hour long protest, which though noisy remained entirely peaceful. Some of the police clearly enjoyed the music and watching the dancing.


More at:
Musical Poor Doors
Democracy Camp – Poet Arrested
Canary Wharf & Westminster Tube
End UK shame over Shaker Aamer
DPAC High Court Vigil for ILF


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London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Deaf & Disabled March & a Harvest Festival

Sunday, September 26th, 2021

Saturday 26th September 2015 wasn’t one of my busiest Saturdays, but the two events I photographed were very different, and took place some distance apart. The first was in the centre of London, at Westminster and was a protest over the discrimination by the Tory government against disabled people.

It was clear from the start of the coalition government that came to power in 2010 that the Tories were out to target the disabled, and that they saw them and the benefits they were getting as a drain on our taxes they were keen to diminish. They declared that cuts in government spending were essential, blaming the previous New Labour government for the results of the world-wide banking crash which in reality was caused by the exploitation of an unstable system by greedy bankers and using this as an excuse for largely counter-productive austerity.

Looking at ways to make cuts, they picked on the disabled as they thought they would be an easy target and could bring large savings. But the disabled have turned out far more resilient than they expected, with groups like Disabled People Against Cuts turning out to be formidable opponents and getting considerable public support.

This particular protest was over the the cutting of the DWP’s Access to Work scheme which enables disabled people to work on an equal basis to non-disabled people. They want to work and have careers and to make a contribution to society, but cutting this essential support will prevent them doing so. And as the protesters pointed out, every £1 spent on Access to Work results in a return of £1.48.

Local resident Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion points at the Heathrow plan

A long tube journey, changing to go almost to the edge of London on the Piccadilly line and then catch a bus to Sipson took me to Grow Heathrow in Sipson. It was a reminder that although London once led the world with its Underground system, it has failed to keep up with the times and now so many other cities have more modern and faster systems. When I first went to Paris we used to laugh at the quaint Metro clattering slowly and noisily around under the city, but now Parisians used to the RER must enjoy at least a little smile at our creaking system – and perhaps gloat that some of their system is now financed by the profits from Londoners using RATP run buses. Germans too profit as DB Arriva run the Overground as well as buses as well as three rail franchises.

Grow Heathrow was celebrating another harvest at their occupied nursery site with ‘music, pumpkins and pizza’ as well as an open ‘No Third Runway!’ discussion. They had squatted the derelict site in 2010 and five years later were still resisiting eviction with their court case then adjourned until the following summer. Half the site was evicted in 2019 but the rest continued until the final eviction in March 2021.

I was late (thanks to that slow journey) for the start of the discussion on Heathrow, but got there in time to hear much of it and take pictures – and as a fairly local long-term resident to make a very small contribution to the debate led by John Stewart of HACAN and other campaigners including Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion and Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid. I grew up under the flightpath a couple of miles from touchdown and have lived the last 47 years a similar distance from the airport. Established by deception it has long been clear the airport is in the wrong place, and now even clearer that we can’t continue expanding air transport if we want to avoid climate catastrophe.

It is hard to take the government’s environmental policies seriously when they continue to support the expansion of air travel and transport and plans for another runway at Heathrow. We should be looking urgently at ways to cut our dependence on air freight and reduce travel, as well as ways to reduce the carbon emissions involved in the lower amount that will continue. This is one of the government policies that seriously undermines its national and international credibility at the forthcoming COP26 climate talks.

Grow Heathrow showed how people could live in different ways and evolve stronger communities and more democratic systems, although few would want to live as ‘off-grid’ in the rather spartan conditions of the residents here. But although we might not all want to make our own charcoal, nor go back to running vehicles on it, producing biochar is one of the few practical methods currently feasible of carbon capture and storage.

Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival
Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest


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.


ATOS Olympics 2012

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Protesters outside the DWP where DPAC activists have occupied the lobby.

2012 was of course the year that London suffered the Olympics, which had been creating problems in East London since London was awarded the games in 2005. I’d photographed a number of event related to the games, both protests against it and others using it as a theme, as well as taking pictures around its perimeter and views into the site on Stratford Marsh, an area I’d photographed since the 1980s and which features strongly in my 2011 book ‘Before the Olympics‘.

With the games came the Paralympics, held a few days after the end of the main event on 29 August to 9 September 2012. Although these games were generally held to be a great success, and to have considerably raised the profile of disabled sport, there was criticism from many disabled groups about IT company Atos being the technology provider and sponsor of the games.

Atos Olympic medals and Atos Olympic flame

Atos was responsible for the work capability assessments for the Dept of Work & Pensions, and had clearly been both incompetent and discriminatory in this, finding many disabled people incorrectly fit for work to meet targets designed to cut the cost of benefits. Many who appealed the decisions were found to have been incorrectly assessed, but often shortly after this were called for another assessment and again wrongly found fit. It drove some disabled people to suicide.

Some disabled athletes obscured the Atos logo on their passes in protest, while activist groups led by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) organised a week of action against Atos to coincide with the Paralympics, beginning with a spoof Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games in front of Tower Bridge.

DPAC made it clear that this is not a protest against sports or those taking part in the Paralympics, but against the government and Atos:

"We’re not against the Paralympics or the people taking part in it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for Team GB.

Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a year to test 11,000 sick and disabled people every week, then decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’."
Tara Flood celebrates her second gold medal

One of those taking part in the opening ceremony was Tara Flood a Paralympic swimmer who won a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic games as well as 2 silver and 4 bronzes there and in the two other games she took part in. Along with two activists in wheelchairs she got on the podium and was awarded another gold medal and the others silver and bronze.

Paralympian gold medal winner Tara Flood is stripped of her gold medal and blue badge

Then along came an ATOS doctor who administered a fitness for work test, first on Tara. She was found fit to work and the gold medal was cut off and her disabled parking card taken away; the others were also found fit to work, losing their medals and benefits too.

The ATOS Games continued, and on Wednesday 29th I photographed DPAC deliver a coffin to the ATOS offices in Triton Square. Friday 31 saw them again outside the ATOS offices for the Closing Atos Ceremony which included the Atos Miracle Cure, making disabled people fit for work.

As the closing ceremony was coming to an end there was a special announcement that there would be another action elsewhere and eventually we learnt that some disabled activists had entered and occupied the lobby of the DWP.

I jumped on a bus, but should have taken the underground as the traffic was heavy in places, but I still got there before the main crowd who had travelled from the protest at the Atos offices. Police would not let them join the 20 or so who were inside so they protested on the pavement in front of the building. There were speeches and then a lot of minor scuffles when police tried to push the protesters back and I had to leave before the protest ended.

More on My London Diary:
DPAC Occupy Dept of Work & Pensions
Closing Atos Ceremony
Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims
Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games


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.


Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Broad Sanctuary, Westminster Abbey. 28th June 2014

The Independent Living Fund, ILF, was introduced in 1988 to provide financial support to disabled people with high support needs, including those with severe learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, and a variety of other conditions.

Around 18,000 people relied on the ILF, mainly using the average of £300 a week it provided to employ personal assistants or carers to enable them to live independently, enabling some to work and pursue careers. It was administered independently from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who provided the funding.

The ILF scheme was closed to new applicants in 2010 and the responsibility for providing support in England was passed to local authorities with the ILF ending on 30th June 2015.

There were various problems with the ILF, with regional variations, but the primary reason behind the changes was probably to cut costs. Although the government promised to provide funding to the local authorities for a transitional period, this was around 13% less than under the ILF, and the money, given to cash-strapped authorities already subject to swingeing cuts was not ring-fenced, and so likely to be appropriated for other purposes.

Local authorities were also not given any clear instructions or advice on how to proceed and there were great variations between local authorities in the support that was provided. A survey a year after the end of the scheme showed extreme differences, with some authorities providing similar levels of support to the ILF, but others operating at much reduced levels, creating the real hardship that protests such as this on Saturday 28th June 2014 campaigned against. The loss of ILF was indeed a disaster for many disabled people.

DPAC and others involved in the protest had managed to keep the details hidden from the police, perhaps because it is more difficult for able-bodied police working as undercover officers to infiltrate disabled groups. UK Uncut has provided a diversion with a protest outside Boots on Victoria St when DPAC and Occupy London supporters moved on to the green area in front of Westminster Abbey.

The protesters had hoped for some support from Westminster Abbey authorities as many Christians had called the government’s actions immoral. But they had picked the wrong place, and the Dean of Westminster refused even to talk to the protesters, calling on the police to get rid of them. Labour MP John McDonnell tried without success to phone the Dean who refused to take his call or to phone back.

The weather too was against the protesters, with rain falling steadily, and for once a police officer showed some quick thinking, moving to stand in the middle of the main tent the protesters were attempting to erect, without which there was simply not enough shelter for a lengthy occupation.

I was unsure whether I wanted to go inside the area or not when I arrived, and soon police were surrounding the fairly low wall stopping people from climbing over. But I was able to take pictures from outside and move around freely – and to go home when I decided there seemed to be little point in staying.

Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF
UK Uncut ‘Boot Out Boots’

Universal Discredit

Monday, May 24th, 2021

T-shirts spell out StopUniversalCredit’ in Tate Modern Turbine Hall on the Unite Day of Action against Universal Credit, 24 May 2018

There were some positive ideas behind the introduction of Universal Credit, a new social security payment system first announced by the then Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, in 2010, claiming it would make the social security system fairer to claimants and taxpayers. It aimed to simplify the system by replacing six existing benefits for working-age people who have a low household income: income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. It would also taper off gradually as people moved into employment, removing the ‘cliff edge’ of losing benefits when going back into work.

But both Duncan Smith and Welfare Reform Minister David Freud, had failed to grasp the complexity of the varied and often varying circumstances of those in low paid and often insecure employment, particularly those on zero hours contracts or other sporadic or seasonal work, or with fluid family arrangements. Nor did they make clear that the main driver behind their changes was to simply cut the cost of benefits. And it now seems likely it will end up being more expensive than the benefits it replaced.

Outside Parliament

Following the Welfare Reform Act 2012, UC roll-out began to selected claimants at pilot job centres in 2013, and problems rapidly became apparent. There were entirely predictable problems with the IT system and the implementation costs were six times the initial forecast at £12 billion. The roll-out was intended to be more or less complete by 2017, but is now expected to take until 2024. Cuts were made to the initial system by George Osborne in 2015, making the transition to work less generous and removing some of the payments for child support, though these were partly restored in 2018 by Philip Hammond. And in 2020 there was a temporary £20 increase as a response to Covid.

What is clear is that the introduction of UC has caused a great deal of hardship to claimants, some temporary, some permanent. It has led to many being unable to keep up rent payments with a great increase in evictions and homelessness. UC has been the main driver of the huge increase in the need for foodbanks. It has forced some women into prostitution and made some claimants turn to crime to keep alive – while some have starved to death.

UC has had a particularly hard effect on families with children, particularly those with more than two children since 2017, and also on self-employed claimants and others with fluctuating incomes. Overall there have been both winners and losers, with around half losing out and a little over a third gaining compared to the replaced benefits.

Marching to the DWP

One of the major problems for everyone has been the long wait before any UC is paid, partly because of the change from a weekly to a monthly benefit. Even where the process works smoothly, the delay between making the claim and receiving money is six weeks, and around a fifth of claimants have had to wait around 5 months or more. There are now emergency loans available – but these mean that when people do get their payments they are reduced to repay these advances. There are also many whose benefit has been cut or stopped for largely trivial reasons through a savage system of benefit sanctions imposed by job centres.

Many other problems have also been caused by UC – you can read a long list of criticisms in the Wikipedia article. As well as evictions and homelessness it has resulted in an increase in domestic violence and a steep rise in mental-health problems. And, as the National Audit Office reported, there is no evidence Universal Credit has met its aim of helping people into work and they say it is in many ways unwieldy and inefficient and is unlikely to provide value for money.

It is clear that UC is in need of a complete replacement, and that it’s monumental failure should have led to the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith in 2015 after the DWP admitted publishing fake testimonies of claimants enjoying their benefits cuts and statistics showed 2,380 people died in a 3-year period shortly after a work capability assessment declared them fit for work, but instead he was knighted in 2020. Under the present government we are unlikely to get more than very minor tinkering that will quite likely create more problems that it solves. One of the proposals under debate is that of a Universal Basic Income, along with targeted welfare payments (some of which are still in existence) to cover those with additional needs. Earlier this month the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that this would be trialled in a pilot scheme in Wales.

Universal Credit rally & march
Universal Credit protest at Tate Modern


Fuel Poverty and Independent Living 2014

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Disabled activists were prominent, along with pensioners at the Fuel Poverty Action FPA) protest outside the British Gas AGM taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. And when that protest ended they made their way to the Dept of Work & Pensions protest against plans to end the Independent Living Fund.

There were over 10,000 excess deaths in Winter 2013-4 because people could not afford to heat their homes, the situation exacerbated after British Gas raised its prices in November, gas by 10.4 %, electricity by 8.4 %. Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013.

FPA call for an increased investment in renewable energy, which in the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate change. But this isn’t popular with the big six energy companies (and the government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and profits.

They say “Our energy system & economy are run to make private profit at all costs – our rights to warm home and a safe climate are sidelined. We’re being ripped off and left to freeze. We say: things have to change. We need and affordable. sustainable energy system owned by us, not big business.”

At the protest they launched their ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ with the following statements:

  • We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment, or the climate.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety, water, air, or the local environment of a community.
  • We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise those who use less.
  • We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
  • We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
  • We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.
  • We all have the right to properly insulated, well repaired housing that does not waste energy.

They were joined by an actor carrying a skull, one of a group which had entered the Centrica AGM and performed Hamlet’s iconic monologue ‘To Heat or Eat, that is the question’ and repeated this for the protesters.

For a final photo opportunity, the protesters planted 100 small windmills made of British Gas bills in the grass outside the centre.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) helps over 18,000 disabled people who have high support needs to live an independent life in the community rather than live in residential care. The funding is ring-fenced and is highly cost-effective compared with the costs of residential care, the care package costing on average £300 per person per week.

Despite this and a Court of Appeal ruling that the minister had not specifically considered the duties imposed by the Equality Act, and that the proposals were unlawful, the DWP announced in March 2014 that the scheme will end in June 2015. Responsibility for care will pass to the local authorities, and provision will be subject to the usual constraints and cuts of local authority expenditure.

At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message ‘NO ILF – NO LIFE’ across its top, and below the barred window ‘Without Support We Become Prisoners In Our Own Homes – Save the Independent Living Fund’. Squeezed into this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who had organised the protest.

Many at the protest were going on to lobby their MPs, and one who had travelled from Newcastle had phoned Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside, who came down the the protest. She tried to deliver a letter from the protesters to the DWP but was at first refused entry by the DWP security, though eventually they allowed her to do so through a side entrance away from the protest.


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.


April Fools Day

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The idea of a day – or rather a morning – for largely harmless pranks to be played on others on April 1st seems to have been fairly widespread around many countries, but the seems to be no real explanation of its origin, but it seems to date back as least into the middle ages. The choice of date is suggested by some to have marked the end of the week of celebrations for the New Year, which was traditionally celebrated across Europe on March 25 until the sixteenth century.

There have been some celebrated hoaxes over the years – and those of us who were around in 1957 still remember the spaghetti harvest on the BBC with its narration by Richard Dimbleby, which fooled much of the nation and amused the rest of us. But so many of today’s news stories and government pronouncements throughout the year now seem so bizarre and unbelievable that I now am disappointed when no-one comes on afterwards to shout ‘April Fool!’

On several occasions in recent years I’ve found myself covering protests outside our Atomic Weapons factory at Aldermaston on April 1st and it’s long seemed to me that our government’s policy on nuclear deterrence is at best a complete hoax – but so far no government has stood up to admit this.

But I wrote about Aldermaston a few days ago, so today I’ll look elsewhere and to April 1st 2014, where I photographed three events in central London, one of which was by probation officers, naming then Justice Minister Chris Grayling whose birthday it was an ‘April Fool’, a judgement adequately confirmed by the failure of his reforms of probation and legal aid, and by his performance in later Government Ministries. Who can forget his no-deal Brexit ferry fiasco which resulted in us taxpayers forking out an extra £50 million on termination bonuses including to the firm with no ferries? ‘Failing Grayling’ is a truly well earned epithet.

But the first event on that day was a picket by disablement activists at the Department of Work and Pensions HQ in Westminster, then run by Iain Duncan Smith, another Tory with a rather too consistent record of failure. Among the groups protesting were the Mental Health Resistance Network who successfully took the DWP to court over the discrimination against people with mental health conditions built in to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The DWP lost their appeal against the judgement but had defied the court in failing to address the issue.

Along with the MHRN were campaigners from DPAC and Winvisible and the picket was one of a number around the country demanding that assessments of work capability and personal independence payments be carried out by local GPs rather than the discredited tests by IT companies such as ATOS, which are inadequate by design and deliberately administered to disadvantage claimants, with trick questions and falsification of responses to meet targets set by the companies for the largely unsuitably qualified staff who administer them.

From the DWP in Caxton St it was a short walk to Parliament Square, where Kurds and Alevi were protesting against the attacks on the Kurdish areas in Northern Syria by forces supported by Turkey.

Kurds want justice and autonomy for northern Syria, where the area known as Rojava has a constitution that supports the rights of women and of all its population groups based on widespread community involvement. Many at the protest had flags for the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) which, like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) calls for the release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, held in a Turkish jail since 1999. The PKK was made a proscribed organisation in the UK in 2001 probably at the request of the Turkey, one of our NATO allies, who have a long record of discrimination and attempts to eliminate Kurdish culture and invaded and occupied Kurdish areas of Syria in 2016, implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

The largest of the protests on 1st April 2014 was by probation officers and lawyers from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and other supporters of the Justice Alliance against the moves to privatise probation and cut legal aid.

Among the speakers at the event were two shadow ministers of justice and other MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, trade unionists, and solicitors as well as several probabtion officers.

Following the rally in Parliament Square, the campaigners marched the short distance to the Ministry of Justice, where Tom Robinson led the singing of “the alternative ‘Happy Birthday’ and unwrapped a couple of presents for InJustice Minister Chris Grayling, a packet of Skittles (as bought by Travon Martin) and a copy of ‘The Book Thief’. Grayling had just announced that he was to stop books being sent to prisoners in UK jails.” A small group then delivered a birthday cake with a tombstone with the message ‘RIP Justice’ to the ministry.

More at:
Probation Officers Strike for Justice
Kurds protest at Rojava attacks
DWP & Atos Work Assessments

Atos & more – 19 Feb 2014

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Seven years ago, 19 Feb 2014 was a big day for protests, particularly as campaign groups Disabled people Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle, Atos Miracles, the Green Party, NUS, Occupy New Network, PCS, Unite and many others were taking part in a National Day of Action against Atos for its institutionally incompetent Work Capability Assessment testing of disabled people which has resulted in many disabled people being unfairly refused benefits.

There were protests at each of the 144 Atos testing centres around the country, including those at Wimbledon, Neasden, Marylebone, Highgate, Ealing, Balham and Croydon in London, but I only photographed them at the Atos offices in Triton Square, just north of the Euston Rd.

Even a report commissioned for the government pointed out serious flaws, and over 40% of appeals after people have had their benefits cut by Atos assessments have been allowed a figure rising to over 70% where the appellants have been assisted in their appeals by benefits experts. These appeals take months, during which people are thrown into abject poverty, and often having won on appeal claimants are within a few weeks again penalised by a new Atos assessment.

Atos apparently get paid more for finding people fit to work, and use simplistic tests and often tricks to do so, with no quality control or penalty for those tests which are overturned on appeal. The protesters called for the company to lose its contracts and be prosecuted for its mishandling of the tests, and for these tests to be abandoned and the Minister responsible, Ian Duncan Smith to be sacked.

Many disabled people have been driven to suicide by these failed tests and the stressful appeals procedures. The government figures for January to November 2011 showed that 10,600 people, an average of 223 a week, died withing six weeks of having been found fit for work by ATOS. The Department of Work and Pensions scandalous response to the public outcry when these figures were released was not to take action to make the improvements that were clearly needed, but simply to refuse to respond to requests for similar information for later years. The campaigners say that assessments of fitness to work should 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.”

Among those I heard speaking outside Atos HQ were MP Dennis Skinner, Paula Peters of DPAC, Among those I heard speaking outside Atos HQ were MP Dennis Skinner, Paula Peters of DPAC, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, journalist Sonia Poulton and the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty. You can read more about the protest and see more pictures at Atos National Day of Action.


I left the Atos protest briefly to cover three further events. The first at the Iraqi consultate in Kensington was a solidarity vigil by the wife and daughter of Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen held and tortured in Iraq by US and Iraqis since his arrest in 2004, and now in Abu Ghraib. They were accompanied by two supporters at one of their regular vigils calling for his release. You can read more about the vigil and the case at Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar.



Next was a picket at the Irish Embassy close to Marble Arch 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. More about this at Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket.



Third was a protest called by my own union the NUJ at the Egyptian Embassy in Mayfair, for press freedom in the country and calling for the release of all jailed journalists, including the four Al Jazeera journalists. More at NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists.


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.


Change Makers: Ways of Protest

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
DPAC 19 Feb 2014 20140219-316_2400
Paula Peters of Disabled People Against Cuts speaks outside ATOS offices in National Day of Protest against mishandling of Work Capability Assessments. 19 Feb 2014

I am one of the very long list of artists taking part in the show currently at the Elysium Gallery in Swansea, Change Makers: Ways of Protest.

Here is the full list from the gallery web site:

Asim Ahmed | Phoebe Beckett | Nazma Botanica | Jason & Becky | Beltalowda | Frans Van Den Boogard | Bourdon Brindille | Ben Browton | Hazel Cardew | Louise Burston | Elsa Casanova | Philip Cheater | Michael Cheung | Jonah Brucker-Cohen & Mark Ramos | Lucy Donald | Judit Csobod, Marcela Echeverki & Stephen Donnelly | Plein Le Dos | Angus Eickhoff | Camila Espinoza | Gisela Ferreira | Mark Folds | Virginie Foloppe | Dawes Gray | Amy Goldring | Emily Grimble | Carol Harrison | Vinay Hathi | Hannah Jones | Paul Jones | Julia Justo | Ken Kamara | Tim Kelly | Shona Davies, David Monaghan & Jon Klein | Bob Bicknell-Knight | Hannah Lawson | Catherine Lewis | Laura Elisabeth Levick | Peter Lewis | Peter Marshall | Alice Mason | Steph Mastoris | Celia Mora | Karl Morgan | Sarah Poland | Jota Ramos | Euros Rowlands | Fiona Roberts | Si Sapsford | David Sladeck | Ekene Stanley | Ben Steiner | John Thomson | Daniel Trivedy | Vladimir Turner | Kenechi Unachukwu | Undercurrents | Natacha Voliakovsky | Eef Veldkamp | Aisling Ward | Thais DeMelo & Pedro H.C |Dawn Woolley & Davin Watne | Caroline Wilkins | Ian Wolter | Tess Wood

Elysium gallery in partnership with Swansea Museum, Swansea County Council and Fusion presents ‘Ways of Protest’, an extensive exhibition looking at how the arts can be used as a vehicle for protest, and how activism and a desire for social change can drive individual and collective creativity.

Contemporary artworks by Welsh and International artists will be accompanied by archival artefacts from the vast Swansea Museum collection as well as memorabilia, photographs, interviews, and artworks provided by members of the public and protest groups from Swansea and Wales.

http://www.elysiumgallery.com/events/event/change-makers-ways-protest/

If you are in Swansea you can book a free time slot to see the show which continues until Saturday 23 January. New lock-down restrictions announced for Wales this week means that the show will have to close from 6pm on Friday 4th December it but it will re-open in January.

But otherwise you can find out more about the show on the Change Makers Festival Facebook Group or Instagram feed.

My contribution to the show is six A2 prints of protests in London by DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and I accompanied my submission with this short text:

Disabled People Against Cuts

When the Tories came to power (with the Lib-Dems) in 2010 and began their savage austerity programme they turned the screw hardest on the disabled, thinking they would be an easy target. DPAC soon proved them wrong.

DPAC 8 Jan 2012 20120128-0234_2400
Disabled People Against Cuts and supporters block Oxford Circus in protest against the Welfare Reform Bill, which will penalise the poor and disabled. 28 Jan 2012
DPAC 18 Apr 2010 20120418-0421_2400
Disabled People Against Cuts chain wheelchairs to block roadway at Trafalgar Square in protest against benefit cuts and unfair fitness assessments. 18 Apr 2010
DPAC  4 Sep 2013 20130904-463_2400
Disabled People Against Cuts hang pants with messages outside the Dept of Work and Pensions at launch of UK Disabled People’s Manifesto. 4 Sep 2013
DPAC 12 May 2014 20140512-692_2400
Disabled People Against Cuts protest at the Dept of Work and Pensions against plans to end the Independent Living Fund. 12 May 2014
DPAC 2 May 2017 20170502-350_2400
Disabled People Against Cuts protest at Conservative Party HQ the day before the General Election against Tory policies which have killed and impoverished the disabled. 2 May 2017

Click on any of the pictures to go to see the group larger on Flickr.

There were several reasons for my choosing this set of pictures (there were four more in my original submission.) Foremost was my great admiration for the people in DPAC and the way they have stood up to the cuts, putting themselves on the line as these pictures attempt to show. I wanted to present something coherent rather than simply choosing my most striking images and while there were several groups and issues among the hundreds I have photographed I could have chosen, DPAC was one that stood out, and also one that I thought would have considerable public appeal. The government may have little concern about the disabled who it writes off as unproductive, but the great majority of the people have a heart.

Because the show was to be in Swansea I did briefly consider sending pictures of Class War – which had its origins in that city – as readers of Bash The Rich will know (if you’ve not read it, get your copy now.) But Class War are perhaps the Marmite of protest (and I do like Marmite.) Of course if anyone other gallery would like to invite me to show work on protest, other pictures are always available. After all I have several hundred thousand of them.


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.


Global Women’s Strike

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

International Women’s Day began as a socialist festival in New York in 1909 and was adopted more widely by the socialist movement in the following years. In 1914 it moved from the last day of February to May 8th and has since been celebrated on that date.

Largely observed by communists in the early years, it was taken up more generally by feminists in the 1960s and 70s but remained a day of radical protests, calling for equal rights, equal pay and for women’s control of their own bodies in areas such as abortion, sexual preferences and consent.

In 1975 the UN celebrated the day as part of a year dedicated to women’s rights and two years later declared it as  UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Although this gave it a much wider audience, it also extended the celebrations to include many less radical events and organisations, including some that seem to be more media beanfeasts than any real part of the fight for women. As Wikipedia comments:

In the twenty–first century, in the West, the day was increasingly sponsored by major corporations and used to promote feel–good messages, rather than radical social reforms.[30] In 2009, the British marketing firm, Aurora Ventures, set up a “International Women’s Day” website with corporate sponsorship.[31][32] The website began to promote hashtags as themes for the day, which became used internationally.[33] The day was commemorated by business breakfasts and social media communications that were reminiscent of Mother’s Day greetings.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Women%27s_Day

One organisation that has certainly kept its radical edge is Global Women’s Strike, who I first met on a protest march on International Women’s Day  back in 2002, protesting at the offices of the World Bank, the Defence Ministry and elsewhere.

This year they were at Royal Courts of Justice, outside the High Court to protest against destitution, detention, deportation, benefit cuts, sexism, racism and other discrimination, criminalisation, pollution and in particular the state use of Family Courts to take children from their mothers. And alongside them were others, including anti-fracking Nana from Nanshire Tina Louise Rothery, DPAC’s Paula Peters, a speaker from the English Collective of Prostitutes and two speakers from Extinction Rebellion.

It was a lively protest, and ended with a short road block on the pedestrian crossing in front of the courts. Many of those present were going on to meetings in the afternoon and another women’s protest in the evening which I was also intending to photograph.

More pictures at Global Women’s Strike.


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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.

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