Sunday, 29 June 2014

"Judge any society by how it treats its weakest members." The blockade of Westminster Abbey

The Disabled People Against Cuts held a blockade of Westminster Abbey yesterday as severely disabled people continued their fight to save the Independent Living Fund. The ILF is a fund that severely disabled people use to pay for the extra carer hours they need to live independent lives. Iain Duncan Smith and Mike Penning, needless to say, plan to close the fund and leave these people in care homes, or stuck at home with dangerously low levels of care.

The court of appeal overturned a government ILF closure decision last year, but that’s not the sort of thing that puts Pennning off. The government announced this year that it would close the fund by 2015.

Disabled people continue to fight for the ILF through the courts. Yesterday, they attempted to take things to another level and set up a camp in the grounds of Westminster Abbey. The hope was that the church of England would see the point of this extremely serious and important protest, and help facilitate a protest camp and discussion. The lives of these disabled people will be threatened without that ILF money. It’s as simple as that.

Unfortunately, the church seemed to miss that point – perhaps in its rush to get the Met on the line. Christianity was in very short supply at the Abbey yesterday. Police poured through the gates to stop the protest and to stamp on tents, to make sure they couldn’t be pitched. They were very heavy-handed all round and must easily have outnumbered protesters ten to one. Have a look at some of this.

Here’s a short clip of the police chasing one protester across the grounds, then grabbing one young woman and cuffing her after shoving her against a tree. This was pretty brutal – you’ll see towards the end of the clip that they twist her arm right up behind her:

Many Thanks to Kate Belgrave for this report.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Peoples Assembly disappointing and insignificant

Well the thing about this blogger I’m not doing it (blogging that is) because I know it all, because I don’t, or am I trying to make a name for myself. I try to write about the things that I feel passionate about, the intense love I have for all people, life, nature, our planet, the list really could be endless if I put my mind to it.

Political blogging can be like juggling with eggs, drop one that break’s making a real mess on that hard floor. So I try not to be sectarian or factional in my criticisms (and of course I’m nonaligned)  of this movement and sections of it, but you know you always end up with someone getting the wrong end of the stick, taking exception to the point you hold, or the idea you believe in with that passion you hold so dear. I call it swimming against the tide, but you do it anyhow, that’s what I do and have done for as long as I can remember, I’m only juggling with eggs not throwing them at people.

Having said that I have some more juggling to do in this post, in a manner of speaking that is!

I don’t want to spoil or put a damper on the very hard work that was done by many to build for the demo held this last Saturday in London, but my feeling is that after one year 50,000 was a disappointment really, Cameron has nothing to worry about that’s what he now knows, at Mile End Tube Station people were walking past me and not taking the leaflets when I decided to help out with building the demo last week, they were not interested, the coalition have almost done their time in office and we really must ask what have we achieved by just holding marches with the great and the good making the same old speeches, we need to do something different we need to make a war against the cuts that involves direct action, civil disobedience and strike action that builds support and solidarity.

The Peoples Assembly is what I thought it was going to be all along, a wasted opportunity, a big chance missed.

“Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.”

That was the glowing description given by the Guardian newspaper, they also reported that 50,000 good people had marched from the BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster,  to that square and lets never forget, the scene, the very location of some of the worst state violence carried out on peaceful people and protesters in the opening decades of this twenty first century. Some of us will never forget the brutality used and applied by the state on young people, students and of course disgustingly women and the disabled. These have been the opening hallmarks of this government a coalition of and for the millionaires.

I well remember George Osborne’s very first budget back in 2010 of which he said was "tough but fair" that action on debt was "unavoidable", and what did we get “Child benefit and public sector pay frozen and a 25% cut from public service spending”. All of the four years on and with only under a year left before the general election we can see all the casualties of austerity around us with real clarity, the homeless on the streets, the stories we have all read of the working people and the very poor, they may not have had enough left over from the their poverty wages or been sanctioned down at the local dole office then forced to go yes, cap in hand for a food handout at a food bank, 13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK, the recession has left scars. Years of slump, flatlining and wage-increase-free recovery have bequeathed a sense of unease. Industrial orders are growing (so we are told) but so is the number of food banks. House prices are on the rise, but so is the number of workers on zero-hours contracts. Welfare reforms mean that more and more people are having their benefits docked. This is Britain in the age of austerity and insecurity for the many.  

The truth has always got to be our guiding light, what with millions going to food banks, children living in a new emerging grinding poverty that will scar them for possibly the rest of their lives, the thousands that don't have a home, the victims of austerity are in their millions.

100,000 kids in Glasgow alone live below the poverty line, and a further 4,000 children rely on food banks to eat on a daily basis, with some schools reporting that kids are falling asleep in class because they are weak from hunger, food bank use has rocketed on Glasgow's estates by a massive 150%, we can end food bank use, as it would only cost £3.5 Million per year to bring back crisis fund payments so people can eat without having the embarrassment of a foodbank assessment.

None of the major parties are much loved or adored. Labour with the help of the press is blamed for the recession and still sits to the right of old Labour. The government and opposition are suffering a backlash from a squeeze on living standards unprecedented in Britain's post war history. Between them, Labour and the Conservatives could barely scrape together votes from 50% of those who bothered to turn out in the European elections. Ukip, the Greens and the stay-at-home party were the three big winners, and if anything we have seen a real shift towards the right in peoples thinking and voting intentions put into practice which has seen the rise of UKIP and baked by the British press.

So on a hot summers afternoon, 50,000 people marched through London under the Banner of The Peoples Assembly and against austerity, only 50,000 people after a whole year.

The Assembly was launched with a letter to the Guardian in February 2013 signed by the Coalition of Resistance (CoR), a collection of Labourites and representatives of the fake-left groups. It was headed by the CoR’s then president, the now deceased former Labour Member of Parliament Tony Benn, the general secretaries of the UK’s main trade unions and a handful of other Labour MPs.

The signatories also included Counterfire (a splinter from the Socialist Workers Party/SWP), the Communist Party of Britain, the Green Party and the organisation known as Socialist Resistance.

Counterfire leader John Rees addressed demonstrators as they assembled outside BBC headquarters in central London before marching to Parliament Square for a rally. The BBC of course failed to report the march on TV, as did most media sources.

Rees declared that the march was “the beginning of a rolling campaign to drive this government out of office.” Had to stop and think about that statement for a moment or two, it seems a bit rich to me if not near impossible to achieve that goal when this coalition government has met with little or no real opposition to its policies of austerity, holding a meeting, organising an Assembly in a locality or holding a march and having a protest is part of a process, but it hardly counts as a fight back with sharpened teeth of determination.  

My own personal feeling is that The Peoples Assembly has had it’s shot and is just not going anywhere in any hurry, yes it’s a non-event disappointing and insignificant we can do much better than this, which I will look at in my next post.

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