Posts Tagged ‘DPAC’

Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis. Saturday 21st March 2015 was another busy day for me in London, covering protests against the criminal activities of UK banks, a large march and rally against racism in the UK (and a few racists opposing this) and customers of John Lewis calling on the company to treat its cleaners fairly.


Great British Tax Robbery – HSBC, Regent St.

UK Uncut campaigners arrived at the HSBC Regent St branch dressed as detectives and robbers to highlight the bank’s crimes in causing the financial crash and tax dodging, which have led to drastic cuts in vital public services and welfare and attempt a ‘Citizen’s Arrest’.

UK Uncut had a clear message for both HSBC and the government, accusing them of being criminals:

The government told us they’d “protect the poorest and most vulnerable”. They said “those with the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of the cuts”. And what have we seen? Dismantling the NHS and wrecking the welfare state. Cutting schools, youth clubs, sure start centres, domestic violence refuges and libraries. Slashing local council budgets. Attacking disabled people with inhumane ‘work capability assessments’ and cuts to vital benefits. Removing access to justice through legal aid cuts. Allowing the big six energy companies to push people into fuel poverty. Cutting jobs, wages and pensions. Selling off social housing and moving people away from their communities. Driving hundreds of thousands into food banks and making families choose between heating or eating

My London Diary, March 2015

The bank closed a few minutes before the protesters arrived and kept its doors shut as the protesters’ ‘forensic team’ chalked around ‘crime victims’ on the ground and put crime scene tape around the area, sealing off the door with a banner. There was a speech from a NHS campaigner from East London about the effects of the cuts on the NHS and ‘criminals’ with HSBC on their chests posed for pictures. After a few minutes the protest was ended as many of those taking part were, like me, joining the Anti-Racism protest.

Great British Tax Robbery


Stand Up to Racism March – BBC to Trafalgar Square

Thousands came to the Stand Up to Racism march from the BBC to Trafalgar Square to reject the scapegoating of immigrants, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and to celebrate the diversity of Britain, with the message ‘Migrants are Welcome Here!

The march began at the BBC, who campaigners accuse of having a policy of ignoring protests in the UK, especially those against government policies – such as the racist hounding of immigrants under their ‘hostile environment’.

Among those marching were DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts. Government policies have also targeted disabled people, cutting benefits and subjecting them to unfair ‘fitness to work’ tests which largely ignore medical evidence.

Stand Up to Racism March


Britain First Protests anti-Racist March – Piccadilly Circus

A small and rather sad extreme right-wing group stood on the steps around Eros waving flags and shouting insults at the anti-racist marchers as the thousands marched past. It was a reminder of the kind of bigotry the great majority were marching against.

Some of the marchers paused to shout back at them, while others followed the advice of the march stewards and ignored the small group. There were a few scuffles but generally police kept the two groups apart, though later I learnt that after I had gone past a group of anti-fascists had seized the Britain First banner.

Britain First Protests anti-Racist March


Stand Up to Racism Rally – Trafalgar Square

Lee Jasper holds up a large poster responding to Trevor Phillips saying he is not a criminal, murderer or thief

Several thousand who had marched to ‘Stand up to Racism’ through London stayed on to listen to speeches at a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Speakers included Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn, Zita Holbourne, Omer El Hamdoon, Lee Jasper and many others, whose photographs you can see on My London Diary.

Stand Up to Racism Rally


John Lewis customers support Living Wage – Oxford St

John Lewis is a company proud of its history and its reputation as a company based on its constitution as the UK’s largest employee owned business with both John Lewis and Waitrose owned in Trust by its 80,000 ‘partners’. They say everyone who works in its stores are not just employees, but a partners in the company, and in almost every year they enjoy a share in its profits.

Everyone who works there, except the cleaners who play a vital role in the proper running of the stores. John Lewis gets out of making them partners by using other companies to employ them and provide the cleaning as a service, choosing its cleaning company through competitive tendering. Cleaning companies cut wages and conditions of service such as sick pay, maternity pay, pensions, holiday pay to the bone – usually the absolute legal minimum – so they can put in low tenders and still make good profits. They exploit the workers – a largely migrant workforce with limited job opportunities – while John Lewis can claim it isn’t them who are doing so and try to maintain their reputation as a good employer.

For some years the cleaners have been protesting to get a living wage and also for John Lewis to recognise their responsibility as the actual company the cleaners are providing a service to. They want to be treated equally with the others who work in the stores, rather than the second-class employees they are now. The least John Lewis could do would be to insist on contractors paying the living wage and giving employees decent conditions of service as a condition of tender, but they had refused to take any responsibility.

Many customers of John Lewis – a very middle-class group – back the cleaners’ case for fair and equal treatment, and a few had come to hand out flyers and talk to shoppers to back their case in a very restrained protest. One of them told me it was the first time she had ever taken part in any protest. They were supported by a few members of the cleaners union, the IWGB, who had brought some of their posters.

John Lewis customers support Living Wage


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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


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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


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Selling Off The NHS

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Two news items in recent days (neither given any great prominence in the media) show clearly how the Tories are selling off the NHS.

Though it was the Financial Times which reported why Rishi Sunak failed to attend a roundtable discussion with the UK hospitality sector. He was in California and the UK meeting was said by Treasury insiders to have clashed with his scheduled call with “US healthcare bosses.” Like me you probably don’t read the FT, but you are unlikely to have heard much about this from the BBC.

The second recent news is that Virgin Healthcare, a company that has been awarded contracts worth well over £2 billion for providing parts of our NHS services was this month sold to the private equity group Twenty20 Capital.

Virgin Care runs 400 NHS and local authority services including GP surgeries and Physiotherapy, generally concentrating on simple services which leaves more difficult and expensive work to be carried out by the NHS. It has a structure including Virgin Group Holdings based in the British Virgin Islands which sets up companies with large amounts of debt it uses to legally avoid paying UK tax – though the owners the Branson family have donated £70,000 to the Tory party.

You can watch a Labour Party video in which Jeremy Corbyn, then the Labour Leader, holds up a 451 page uncensored report and the considerably slimmer heavily redacted version released by Boris Johnson’s government. The unedited version confirms that the US demanded that the NHS is firmly on the table in the trade talks. “These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters… We’ve now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.”

On Friday 23rd December 2016, I photographed ‘Howls of protest for death of the NHS‘, a protest at Downing St on the day that contracts were signed across the country to implement the government’s ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ which effectively means the NHS can be handed over to private companies without any public engagement or consultation, ending a public service whose vision which has long been the envy of the world, signing the NHS over for private profit.

Every 15 minutes the speeches were interrupted for a long and loud ‘howl of protest’ by those taking part. These were timed to coincide with three social media ‘Thunderclaps’ across Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr by several hundreds of people mainly unable to be at the rally.

Speakers at the rally included Paula Peters of DPAC, Ealing Councillor Aysha Raza, trainee nurse Anthony Johnson of the Bursary or Bust campaign, a trainee mental health nurse, a patient and campaigner Gina and retired paediatrician and co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public Tony O’Sullivan.

At the end of the rally a small group of those present led by several DPAC campaigners, were harassed by police and threatened with arrest as they marched on the road to hold a final howl outside Parliament, with another short speech by Paula Peters.

Though the NHS has been deliberately weakened and made more available for private companies to run for profit by successive governments we still do have an NHS which is largely free at the point of need. But half of NHS beds have been lost since Thatcher began the cuts and privatisation and over 40% of services in UK healthcare are now provided by private companies and many of those who are now running the government have made clear in speeches, pamphlets and books that they favour an insurance backed scheme based on the US model.

The US model is expensive and flawed. Two thirds of personal bankruptcy in the USA is because people are unable to pay for the cost of healthcare either because they cannot afford the insurance or often because their insurance will not cover the treatment they require.

The Health and Care Bill 2021 continues the threats to the future of the NHS and gives much greater powers to the government to direct the NHS and will undoubtedly lead to greater penetration of the service by private providers, including the major US healthcare companies that Chancellor Sunak was making plans with in California while neglecting his duties in the UK.

More from 23rd December 2016: Howls of protest for death of the NHS


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MP Threatened Over Brexit

Sunday, December 19th, 2021

Anna Soubry MP harassed by extremists

On December 19th 2018, tempers were still running high over Brexit, and I had been photographing extreme Brexiteers shouting at and threatening Steven Bray and other pro-Europeans as they continued their daily vigil outside parliament.

The protests across lunchtime seemed to be drawing to a close when I noticed the small group of extremists interviewing a bizarrely-dressed blogger outside the public entrance to the Houses of Parliament and went across to take some pictures.

Then they saw Anna Soubry, then the Conservative MP for Broxtowe, on the west edge of Nottingham and a vocal pro-European walking past and confronted her. She stopped to talk and argue with them, and they angrily shouted at her. She called to a police officer nearby for support, but he simply told the protesters to stop and ignored them when they failed to do so. Eventually after a minute or so she managed to turn away and walk past more police into Parliament, and officers then prevented the Brexiteers from following her.

I filed the pictures rather more rapidly than usual to meet deadlines as I realised that I was the only photographer present (though at least one of the extremists was filming the confrontation) and was pleased to see a few of them in the papers later. Though had I been with a more active agency I would have made much more from the set.

Extremist Brexiteers at parliament

Here are a couple of the pictures from a few minutes earlier outside the gates of Parliament.

Police were holding them back as they tried to stop cars leaving through the gates.

Extreme Brexiteers clash with SODEM

Earlier the group of extremist Brexiteers had been harassing Steven Bray and the supporters of SODEM, (Stand of Defiance European Movement) the group he founded in 2017 and which was holding daily vigils whenever Parliament was in session.

They accused Bray of being a drunk and asked “Who funds Drunk Steve”, a question that was rather redundant as two large banners were covered with logos of a wide range of organisations supporting SODEM’s daily pickets. There was a lot of shouting, threats and aggressive gestures, but no actual violence with police trying with little success to separate the two groups.

I’d photographed both groups on previous occasions, and had given up on going specially to photograph them, but was still taking pictures when I had gone up to cover other events – as on this Wednesday. SODEM were always pleased to be photographed, but their opposition at times objected to my presence.

MP welcomes Delhi to London driver

Another event that happened while I was there was the arrival of The Turban Traveller, a Sikh with a film crew from Creative Concept Films in Delhi who arrived in London today after driving overland from Delhi and was greeted by Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall.

Cuts kill disabled people say protesters

But I had come to Parliament to photograph disability groups DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network) who together with WOW campaign were protesting against the cumulative impact of the cuts on the lives of disabled people.

The War on Welfare campaign attracted over 200,000 signatures to its petitions against welfare cuts, and the protest was in support of a debate due later in the day on the cumulative impact of the cuts on the lives of disabled people.

Among those who came to speak with the protesters was Virendra Sharma MP, who had come out to meet the Sikh overland traveller and although showing an interest seemed to be unaware of the problems the cuts had caused the disabled, Laura Pidcock (then MP for North West Durham) and Lib-Dem peer Lord Roberts of Llandudno. Both the latter seemed very concerned about the terrible effect the various cuts falling particularly on the disabled.


Anna Soubry MP harassed by extremists
Extremist Brexiteers at parliament
Extremist Brexiteers clash with SODEM
MP welcomes Delhi to London driver
Cuts kill disabled people say protesters


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Fuel Poverty, NHS Staffing & Zero Hours – 2013

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Eight years ago there were protests about fuel poverty and NHS staffing which seem still very much in the news today, and zero hours contracts remain a problem, though unscrupulous employers have found another unfair way to screw their workers with ‘fire and rehire’, although legal actions brought by smaller and more active unions have begun to curb some of the more obviously illegal aspects of the gig economy.

Justice Not Jumpers at NPower HQ

But fuel costs are rising fast and putting many energy companies out of business. Not that they were really energy companies, simply middlemen gambling to make a quick profit, buying energy as cheaply as they could and attracting customers to deals which have become uneconomic to honour as fuel prices have risen. The scheme to rescue their customers, passing them on to those companies still in business makes life tougher for those who have to pick them up, and with the latest company to go under – or at least into administration – means that either taxpayers or possibly electricity customers – we await the details – will have to shoulder the bill.

It’s a crisis that has its roots in the privatisation of the industry and the absurd belief in competition that has created an overpopulated market in companies taking a cut out of our bills, with others profiting from persuading people to switch suppliers. Along of course with a government failure to provide proper support for insulation of homes – as Insulate Britain have been gluing themselves to the M25 and elsewhere to highlight, as well as ending the building of onshore wind farms, failing to put investment into other renewable sources such as tidal power and instead backing climate-destroying wood burning and expensive nuclear schemes. The recent half-hearted support for heat pumps is yet another failure by government. We should have schemes that ensures that new build properties are built with either air or ground source heat pumps and high levels of insulation and provides incentives for them to have solar panels.

On Tuesday 26th November I went with fuel poverty activists to march to the offices of NPower, one of the big six energy providers to protest against the profiteering by them that leads to people having to choose between eating and keeping warm, causing unnecessary deaths.

They included people from Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts and were protesting against the huge increase in energy costs and against the deception of the energy companies who blame price rises on ‘green taxes’. The protests, in London and at British Gas’s new Oxford HQ, as well as in Lewes and Bristol were supported by other groups including No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear.

They went to the NPower offices in Threadneedle Street in the centre of the City of London because NPower is the UK’s most complained about energy company with double the customer complaints of its nearest rival EDF and higher price rises in 2013 than any of the other Big Six companies. It had then paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite a 34% profit rise of £413million and in the previous winter its price hikes were estimated to have pushed 300,000 people into fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty leads to premature deaths – and the figure for these announced that day for winter 2012-3 was a shock, with an increase of almost a third on the previous year, to 31,000 people. The protesters emphasized this by carrying a coffin to the offices, with several of the wearing masks with the faces of the prime minister and chancellor, David Cameron and George Osborne, and wearing jumpers with the logos of major energy companies.

Police protected the offices of NPower while the protesters held a peaceful rally outside, where many testimonies were read from people who were having to chose between heating and eating, already cold and dreading the coming winter. In a press statement, Susan Jarrett of UK Uncut said: ‘The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as Npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal. This Government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to literally get away with murder which is why we are fighting back today.’

This winter fuel costs are higher. Global warming means our weather is far less predictable, and its possible we may have an unusually cold snap. Or we may be lucky and avoid extremes of cold. But if we do get them, then there will be more deaths.

4:1 legal minimum NHS staffing

Back in 2013, the Dept of Health was still in Richmond House on Whitehall, and nurses were there to campaign for a manadatory staffing level of one nurse for every 4 patients in the NHS. They were joined by other groups protesting against closures and privatisation in the NHS. Its probably because of protests like this and many others that the department moved to obscure offices some way down Victoria St – which at least one protest I photographed marched past without noticing and got several hundred yards down the road before they realised they had missed it. Richmond House is now set to hold Parliament while the old building undergoes extensive and very expensive modernisation.

The protest was a response to various disastrous news stories about the problems of the NHS, including the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) revealing the NHS has over 20,000 nursing vacancies and the Department of Health’s decision to downgrade (effectively close) 100 A&E departments. Protesters also urged people to sign a petition calling for the NHS to be exempted from the provisions of the EU-US trade treaty then being negotiated in secret; and post-Breixt the government has made clear they will not protect the NHS in UK-US negotiations.

Cultural Workers against Zero Hours

Finally I went to photograph PCS members from national cultural institutions in London at Tate Modern and on the Millennium Bridge protesting against zero hour contracts which give them no guaranteed weekly hours or income, while stopping them taking on other work. Employers use zero-hour contracts to cut wages, avoid holiday pay, pensions, and ensure the maximum flexibility and profit for themselves. Workers are also unable to take on other part-time work, as they are obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer.

There have been some minor changes in the law and in 2015 employers were banned from requiring workers to get permission before accepting other work but zero hours contracts continue to be a problem for many workers. Workers on them have no way of knowing their income week to week and although in theory they have the right to refuse any work offered, this still often leads to them being offered fewer hours in future. And while in theory zero hours workers have employment rights, these are often denied – and virtually impossible for individuals to enforce. All workers – particularly those suffering from zero hours contracts – need to join an effective union.


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Discriminatory Welfare Reforms 2016

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard speaking

Five years ago it was a cold, wet and windy night on Wednesday 16th December as I tried to photograph a protest in Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament by Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle as inside Tory MPs were voting for the Welfare Reform and Act 2016 which abolished the work-related activity component of the Employment and Support Allowance for new claimants from April 2017.

Candle tribute to DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly

ESA is a benefit for those who have a health condition or disability which limits their ability to work. To claim it people have to undergo a Work Capability Assessment, which either find them fit for work and so not eligible, decides they should go into a group which has to undertake ‘work-related activity’ which might at some later date make them capable of work or puts them into a support group where they are not required to undertake such activities.

Equivalent measures were also introduced for those who have been transferred to Universal Credit, and mean that those who have to undergo work-related activities will get roughly £30 a week less, a huge proportion of their benefits which would go down from £102 to £73 per week. The government claimed that this will “remove the financial incentives that could otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work” and when proposed said it would save £640 million a year by 2020-21.

Andy Greene of DPAC chaired the event

The House of Lords amended the bill to remove the cut, but the amendment was overturned by the Tory majority in the House of Commons.

Green Party co-Leader Jonathan Bartley

The protest came after the report of a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) inquiry had published a report condemning the ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights’ which had resulted from the UK government welfare reforms.

Claire Glasman of WinVisible speaking

The event also included a vigil with candles and a silence in memory of one of the co-founders of DPAC, Debbie Jolly who had died the previous week. The group was founded to campaign against the unfair Work Capability Assessments in 2010. Unsound in their nature the tests were conducted by largely unqualified staff working with incentives and targets to fail claimanst by commercial companies including Atos.

John McDonnell MP with Rebecca Long-Bailey holding an umbrella

There was a long list of speakers including SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDOnnell, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, Claire Glasman of WinVisible and John McArdle of Black Triangle and I tried hard to take photographs and keep my cameras and flash unit and LED light as dry as possible. The LED light was really not powerful enough except at very close distances and there was very little ambient light in the area. I was having problems taking pictures and these were not helped when at a critical point the six AA batteries fell out of the LED unit as I had forgotten to fix the back in place, and rolled across the pavement and into the crowd listening to the speeches. Fortunately those around me picked them up and handed them back to me.

This wasn’t an occasion for great pictures, but I was pleased to have been able to produce a reasonably decent set of images despite the weather and the lousy light.


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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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Legal Aid & Illegal Confinement

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Eight years ago on Saturday October 5th 2013 I turned up outside the Old Bailey to cover a protest against the governments proposals to demolish a vital part of our justice system, Legal Aid. The proposals will mean that justice becomes largely only available to the very rich, with one law for the rich and another for the poor.

Of course our system of law in the UK is one which has as its base the protection of the wealthy and the establishment and in particular the rights of property owners, dating back to the ideas of private ownership of land introudced and used for its appropropriation by our Norman conquerers, but legal aid has provided a small and important gesture towards equality. The rich and powerful can still use the law to protect their interests, with injunctions and threats of libel and other actions. They can still call upon the police to protect their property and rely on our secret services to work for their interests.

Lee Jasper

The protest came after the government had been consulting on the changes to the legal aid system which proposed making it more restrictive and also cutting the fees to solicitors and barristers. Our combative in nature system of law is complex, time-consuming and allows those who can pay large fees to prolong litigation and have a better chance of success, with costs in some cases being in £millions. It’s a system that favours not the establishment of truth, but those who can employ the most persuasive liars.

From the Old Bailey the march made its way to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, where I rushed ahead to find DPAC (Disabled Activists Agains Cuts) already making their way onto the pedestrian crossing to block the road. “They stopped on it and began to padlock together to form a block. The far half of the crossing was blocked by a line of figures dressed in gold, one holding the (plastic) Sword of Justice, and another her Scales.”

Police came and asked them politely to move but they didn’t respond. The marchers arrived for a noisy protest and then a mock trial of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. A number of witnesses were called, some giving testimony of how without Legal Aid they would have been unable to fight their cases, and others reading written testimony from others, and then there was more chanting and drumming as well as poetry and some legal advice before the inevitable guilty verdict.

Police had been getting more impatient and insistent about the protesters leaving the road. They don’t like to arrest people in wheelchairs, partly because it looks bad in the photographs and videos, partly because of the difficulty of providing suitable transport, but also because like the rest of us (except possibly Tory ministers) they have a human sympathy with the disabled. “The DPAC activists in wheelchairs who were still blocking the road consulted with each other and decided it was time to leave, and that they would have a final five minutes of protest and then all leave together.”

I left for Parliament Square where a peaceful vigil was marking a year since British poet Talha Ahsan was extradited to the US. Those taking part, including his brother Hamsa and other family members said that his long-term solitary confinement comes under the UN definition of torture and call for him to be returned home and unjust US-UK extradition laws repealed.

As I wrote:
“Talha Ahsan, an award-winning British Muslim poet and translator has been detained for over seven years without trial and was extradited to the USA on 5th October 2012 with his co-defendant Babar Ahmad. Although he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the Home Secretary Theresa May refused to prevent his extradition, unlike that of Gary McKinnon, raising suspicions that this relected an anti-Muslim predjudice.”

Talha is a UK citizen and his supporters say that he should have been tried in the UK. Eventually in the US he accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to one of the several charges and was sentenced. The time he had already served meant he was then free and was returned to the UK. His six years before extradition in detention without trial or charge here remains among the longest in British legal history.

More at:

Bring Talha Ahsan Home
UK Uncut Road Block for Legal Aid

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.


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