For Immediate Release
A group of over 200 people today blocked Oxford Circus and brought the surrounding area to a complete standstill, with traffic backlogs extending for several hundred yards. At 12 o’clock, a group of 20 wheelchair users from Disabled People Against the Cuts(1) chained themselves together in the middle of Regent Street using handcuffs and bicycle locks. They were joined by 200 others who had responded to a call by UK Uncut(2) to meet at Holborn station to ‘shame the government into withdrawing the bill completely'(3).
At 2pm, the group of protestors decided to leave together, describing the action as an ‘amazing success’. Alex Logan, who had joined the protest at Holborn said “The day has been an amazing success. Together we have shown that we are not going to take the cruel Welfare Reform Bill lying down. We will continue to work together to fight bullying behaviour of the government, which is choosing to make marginalised people’s lives a misery while continuing to let rich companies rich companies dodge £25bn of tax each year”
Before midday, while the wheelchair users were locking themselves into place in the road, a crowd of about 200 people including a samba band and protestors from Occupy London and Black Triangle had gathered at Holborn station. They travelled from there to Oxford Circus, which had been a secret target until the wheelchairs were chained in place. Some people had travelled from as far as Manchester, Cornwall and Edinburgh to take part in the action, which was called by disabled activists and others directly affected by the bill.
The protesters say that the Welfare reform bill is ‘unfair, unnecessary and unpopular’ and are calling for it to be scrapped. 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’(4). Nearly half a million people would lose their Disability Living Allowance, including disabled children(5). 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(6). The government’s own research admits that this flagship reform will push 100,000 children into poverty(7).
The government has defended the bill on the grounds that it needs to cut the deficit. However, the protesters point out that much greater amounts of money are lost through tax dodging by the super-rich each year. In January, Private Eye revealed a further £2 billion tax dodge by Vodafone, in addition to the £6 billion scam revealed in 2010(8). The most recent dodge by Vodafone is greater than the cuts to Disability Living Allowance, which will affect half a million people.
1 – Disabled People Against Cuts is a UK based organisation fighting for justice and human rights for all disabled people.
http://www.dpac.uk.net/ | http://twitter.com/Dis_PPL_Protest
2 – UK Uncut is a grassroots anti-austerity direct action network. The announcement of the action is available at http://www.ukuncut.org/blog/message-from-the-invisible
3 – http://www.ukuncut.org/blog/message-from-the-invisible
4 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2011/dec/14/welfare-reform-families-lose-homes & http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16050
5 – http://www.mencap.org.uk/news/article/half-million-disabled-people-may-lose-benefit
6 – http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/latest-news2/medical-test-for-dla & http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/31/consequences-benefit-changes-mental-health
7 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/22/housing-crisis-benefit-cuts?intcmp=239
8 – http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=in_the_back&