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.

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