Disabled rush the Commons

Article @ Morning Star, published 25 June 2015

Additional reporting by Luke James

Disabled campaigners and police clashed inside the House of Commons yesterday as protesters tried to storm the debating chamber to save the independent living fund (ILF).

Members and supporters of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) took action after “waiting for ages” to talk to MPs in Westminster’s central lobby.

Over 50 police officers rushed to the scene, pushing wheelchair users out of the way and dragging campaigners across the floor and out of the building.

DPAC’s Andy Greene led the charge to the corridor linking the central lobby to the chamber where MPs quizzed Prime Minister David Cameron over deaths resulting from benefit cuts.

Mr Greene told the Star the police reaction to the impromptu protest was “dull in its predictability.”

He said: “They were really aggressive — I had one cop calling me a cunt and asking me to ‘go on, go on cunt’.

“Six of them picked me up off the floor and carried me out.

“It’s down to us to expect that and to be unafraid and to be prepared to meet them head on regardless of our situation.”

Mr Greene came out of the clashes unharmed, but a young woman who staged a sit-in was put in a choke hold and arrested as she screamed: “You’re breaking my arm.”

The ILF provides vital financial support to disabled people so they can cover costs such as full-time carers, which in turn allows people to live independently, go to work and be active in their communities.

The fund, which helps around 18,000 severely disabled people, will be closed to all claimants in England from next Tuesday.

From July 1 the ILF will be managed by local councils, which will have no direct obligation to spend funding on that kind of social care for the severely disabled.

Dennis Skinner was among Labour MPs who came out of the chamber in support of protesters.

The Bolsover MP said: “I think it’s very important that this government realises that lots of people in Britain who are not as fortunate as we are and have to be looked after.

“The idea of cutting benefits for disabled and children is a disgrace.”

He branded the bid to storm the Commons “a wonderful idea.

“That’s what the Bullingdon boys do but they were using fire extinguishers in hotel foyers.

“But this was more practical. This was real life. These people have learned it in real life.”

Fellow Labour MP John McDonnell, Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy MP and the Greens’ longtime ILF supporter Caroline Lucas MP also came to show their support for DPAC.

After leaving the Commons’ central lobby, DPAC campaigners continued their day of action blockading the road outside Parliament for over an hour.

They then marched on Downing Street, where a dozen wheelchair users stopped Whitehall traffic too.