Dozens of protesters against the Welfare Reform Bill and cuts to disability benefits and services blockaded Oxford Street on 28 January 2012. A number of wheelchair users chained themselves together at 12 noon, joined by activists from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), UK Uncut, The Black Triangle Campaign and other disability rights groups. Traffic was stopped on Regents Street at the height of Saturday shopping.
In the words of one campaigner:
I’m here because I want to protest against the cruel cuts that are hitting the disabled horrendously in this country, that and the horrible horrible propaganda that’s been coming out from our government trying to villainise genuinely disabled people as being scroungers as being parasites, and a 75% rise in hate crimes that’s come along with that, that I experience daily. Just going out shopping people come up to me and they ask me “Do you really need to be in that wheelchair? or are you, you know, just doing it for the benefits?” Like no, no, I don’t know why anybody would want to in this day and age, even the pavements aren’t accessible half of the time in the UK.
Recent reports have shown that as a result of the bill 500,000 families stand to lose their homes while others will become ‘imprisoned in them’. Nearly half a million people would lose their Disability Living Allowance, including disabled children. People with terminal illnesses would be forced into work, and 3.2 million will be put through demanding tests that have already pushed some to take their own lives. According to their own research, the government’s flagship reform will push 100,000 children into poverty.
Earlier this month, disability rights campaigners released the Spartacus Report, which found that the government's consultation on DLA reforms was flawed and failed to meet the state's own code of practice for consultations. Furthermore, 74% of respondents in the consultation were opposed to the plans.
On arrival, the police seemed at a loss for what to do, and formed lines in front of their vans while busses were backed up along Regent Street. Generally those present described the coalition between anti-cuts campaigners and disability rights activists as welcome and encouraging, and calls were issued for more such actions to take place across the country. After two hours the activists decided to leave together, describing the action as an 'amazing success'.
Photos by Lily Poveda. Thanks to indymedia for report.