Posts Tagged ‘DPAC’

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.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


16th January 2013

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Probably the best way to describe my work on Wednesday 16th January would be varied, and that’s one of the things that attracts me to photographing protests on the streets of London. I was never quite sure what I would find or what would happen, and every protest brought its own problems in terms of photography, and also sometimes in how to write about them.

I started the day with Pussy Riot, or rather with protesters in solidarity with them on an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, attending a court hearing today over her plea for her sentence to be suspended so she can raise her son until he is 14. She was one of three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral in February, and was sent to a prison camp in Siberia for two years.

I had expected rather more protesters than the small group I found there, as the case had attracted considerable publicity, but perhaps it was too early on a cold January morning to attract many. It isn’t either a very good place to protest, as the actual embassy is hidden away a few yards down a private road roughly opposite where protests (and photographer) are strictly forbidden. But I also left fairly promptly after the time set for the start of a protest, and numbers may have grown later.

Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


There were more people, including quite a few that I knew, at a rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. Many were disabled, with a few in wheelchairs, but more who have mental health conditions, along with a number of pensioners, trade unionists from the court branch of the PCS and other supporters and the protest was organised by disabled activist groups including DPAC and the Mental Health Resistance Network.

Inside the court a tribunal was hearing a judicial review into Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act, not being accessible for those with mental health conditions, and several of those speaking at the rally had personal stories to tell of how they had suffered as a result.

Mental health conditions are often spasmodic, which may result in claimants on a good day not seeming very ill and on a bad day being unable to attend an assessment – which results in them being automatically judged fit for work. Few of those carrying out the tests had sufficient knowledge and experience in the area of mental health to be able to sensibly conduct the assessment, and medical records were often not taken into consideration.

It seems totally ridiculous for benefits which people need because of their medical conditions not to be assessed on the basis of reports by the doctors who have examined and know their patients, but we have a system that instead tries to deny benefits on the basis of often arbitrary ‘tests’ by unqualified staff.

Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments


Another protest was taking place outside the courts, which I hadn’t been aware of, and it had a very different atmosphere which I found rather chilling.

There was something very organised about it, with people dressed in red and all the placards carefully printed and it lacked the kind of spontaneity. Although it was a protest against the use of drugs to treat mental illness, some of those taking part gave the impression that they had been drugged.

Drugs are certainly misused in the treatment of people with mental health issues, though I think there are occasions when they are an important part in improving people’s health. And certainly they are over-used as a way to avoid treating the real causes of some people’s problems which come largely from poverty, lousy housing and terrible jobs. But there seemed to be something very wrong in some of the assertions that were being made.

I hadn’t heard of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, and was not really surprised when I looked it up on the web and found it described on Wikipedia as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists‘ established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

And as I wrote when I put these pictures on line:

it seems unfair to dismiss all of psychiatry as their banner did as ‘Junk Science and Dangerous Drugs‘ and I find it impossible from personal experience to deny the existence of medical conditions such as depression – or to dismiss the utility of some drugs in the treatment of mental conditions.

Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids

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.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


Busy Friday

Monday, June 10th, 2019

I didn’t expect Friday March 1st to be particularly busy in Westminster. Fridays generally aren’t a very busy day for protests not least because many MPs rush off back to their constituencies for the weekend. I’d gone up to take pictures largely because I knew that protesters from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) were protesting against Universal Credit, which is causing widespread hardship and extreme poverty, particularly for disabled people.

They are a group I admire and the treatment of the sick and disabled by the current government has been calculatedly cruel; as a small gravestone they had brought recorded, over 12,980 people have died within six weeks of being found fit for work by a deliberately ill-designed biased scheme adminstered to make a huge proportion of incorrect decisions – which if people live long enough for their appears to be heard are overturn in over two thirds of cases – though often by the time this happens it it time for another fake assessment. It is all about cutting costs and academic studies point to around 120,000 early deaths from the Tory cuts since 2010.

That protest turned out to be rather smaller than I had hoped – and then those taking part had anticipated. In part the small number reflected the difficulties of travel for disabled people that I’ve also photographed protests about.

My own travel on that morning took me on a slightly unusual route. Usually I take the train to Waterloo and walk from there to Parliament Square, but I think I was feeling lazy, and instead got off the train at Vauxhall and took a bus from there, which took me past the Home Office, now also home to DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In front of their entrance was a giant plastic bottle, made up of single use plastic bottles, drawing attention to the need to take action against the huge amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans and in landfill.

Apart from the problem of disposing of this waste, there are also the problems caused by the extraction of the petroleum and the energy required to produce the plastic from this and fabricate it into bottles. I carry a plastic bottle of water in my bag when taking pictures, which I bought on a very hot day a couple of years ago, as a single-use bottle containing a fizzy lime and lemon drink. Since then I’ve refilled it several hundred times with water, rinsing it out every day when I get home, and it is still going strong.

The first person I met on getting off the bus at Parliament Square was a lone protester with sandwich boards and a placard with plastic bottles hanging from it calling for a ban on all disposable plastic trash. This was the first time I’d met him there though I’ve seen him several times since.

I’d known that there would be other protests taking place in the square, and one was by Climate Strike, one of many weekly #FridaysForFuture events taking place in many cities and towns across the world inspired by the action of 15-year old Greta Thunberg. The weekly protests here – like this one – have not really grown much since they started, but there have been several much larger and noisier protests Friday protests involving many school children.

Another that I hadn’t really been aware of before became apparent when a large number of London’s black cabs came to a halt around Parliament Square, one of a number of protests by them demanding to be allowed to use all roads and bus lanes in London. I think it’s time to look again at taxis in London, and to replace the outdated system of ‘plying for hire’ and ‘the knowlege’ with one based on smartphone apps and professional sat-nav systems. Black cabs cause too much pollution and congestion to keep running as they now do in London. But I was pleased when a group of them came to support the DPAC protest against Universal Credit.

The final group of protesters in Parliament Square were at the start of a march to the Japanese embassy against the barbaric annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji cove. I went with them as far as Downing St before returning to Parliament Square.

More at:
Scrap Universal Credit
End Japanese dolphin slaughter
Black Cab Drivers blockade
Weekly climate protest
Plastics protests in London


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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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