Posted on Fri 31st Aug 2012, 4:37pm
Today, over 400 protesters from Disabled People Against the Cuts 1 and UK Uncut 2 have simultaneously shut down Paralympic sponsor Atos’ headquarters and the Department for Work and Pensions.
This was a spectacular grand finale to a sustained week of creative direct action 3 against Atos by the two grassroots direct action groups, timed to coincide with the first week of the Paralympic Games.
The second target, the DWP, was not revealed until over an hour into ‘The Closing Atos Ceremony’ 4 outside Atos HQ. When it was announced that a smaller group of disabled activists had locked on and blockaded and occupied the DWP building, protesters travelled from the atos building to join them by by tube, buses and taxis. There were 8-12 disabled and non disabled activists inside DWP who then left DWP 2 hours later. This comes after Cecilia Burns died of cancer today despite Atos telling her she was fit for work and cutting her benefits. The police were very heavy-handed at DWP with disabled activists and one woman had her wheelchair damaged by police. One many also went to hospital due to the heavy handling by police. There was one arrest.
Throughout the week hundreds of disabled activists and anti-cuts campaigners have collaborated and taken part in over 20 anti-Atos demos all over the UK; a coffin full of messages from the victims of Atos was delivered to Atos HQ in London, a main road was blocked with a mass ‘die-in’ in Cardiff 5 , the Atos centre in Sheffield was stormed, and the ‘Armchair Olympics’ took place, which saw people unable to leave their homes jamming the phones and emails at Atos HQ for a whole day. Whilst speculation continues that Team GB Paralympic athletes hid the Atos logos on their lanyards at the Paralympic opening ceremony on Wednesday evening in an act of resistance to the Paralympic sponsor 6.
Atos were awarded the £100 million a year contract by the Department for Work and Pensions to conduct work capability assessments on sick and disable people. Their testing programme has come under fierce criticism. The British Medical Association 7, disabled people, and MPS 8 have all demanded the tests be halted immediately. A recent episode of Dispatches 9 revealed Atos staff being pressured into unfairly declaring people ‘fit for work’ in order to fulfil targets set by the government. The government are aiming to cut nearly 20% from the welfare bill, despite the government’s own figures showing less than a 0.5% fraud rate 10.
Lydia Foxton, a spokesperson from DPAC said: ‘We have been targeting Atos, but they are just doing the government’s dirty work. Cutting welfare is devastating people’s lives and removing dignity, security and independence from thousands of sick and disabled people across the country. At the same time, David Cameron and his government are using the Paralympics to show themselves to be champions of disabled people, it’s a disgrace.’
Andrew Cox, a spokesperson from UK Uncut said: ‘The government have been making huge cuts to welfare provision, even though their own research shows that less than 0.5% of welfare claims are fraudulent. They are making disabled people a scapegoat for the economic crisis – they are being punished with welfare cuts, while the banks and the big businesses are getting off scot-free. The government could clamp down on tax avoidance and get back billions, the savings they will make from cutting welfare do not even come close, and they are devastating people’s lives.’
See here for photos and follow the story @ukuncut and #giveatoss
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