SEVERELY disabled activists were brutally attacked by police officers this weekend after occupying Westminster Abbey grounds in their fight to save the independent living fund.
Hundreds of supporters of Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), UK Uncut and Occupy London took over the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Saturday.
But while many thought the Church of England-owned space would welcome the protesters, instead the police were called in to forcibly remove everyone.
“The idea was to establish a fully accessible camp,” said DPAC national committee member Ellen Clifford.
But activists were never given the chance to set the camp up. Police reportedly denied wheelchair users passage and arrested those facilitating the demonstration.
Organisers said they were swamped with “at least 200 police” officers on the site.
Onlookers said that police even arrested a man who was just complaining about them stopping wheelchair users from moving around.
And officers stopped journalists from getting close to some activists who had chained their wheelchairs to the abbey’s railings.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed it had arrested two men on suspicion of assaulting officers but refused to made any further comment.
Dean of Westminster Dr John Hall was asked to support the campaign and provide sanctuary to the many disabled activists but refused to let them stay.
An Abbey spokeswoman told the Morning Star that, while the church supported the right to protest, “the Abbey can not allow its precincts, which are private property, to be used in this way.”
Labour MP John McDonnell, who was at the protest, tried to arrange a meeting with Dr Hall but without success.
“No contact from Dean of Westminster so it looks like at the most iconic site of Christian worship in Britain the church is evicting disabled,” Mr McDonnell wrote on Twitter.
The protest was staged in the fight to save the independent living fund, which provides financial support to seriously disabled people to help them lead normal lives.
The Court of Appeal last year blocked minsters’ plans to close it following a challenge from activists.
But the nature of the ruling meant that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was able to propose to close the fund again after carrying out an equality impact assessment.
Ms Clifford said that if the fund is shut disabled people would face segregation from other members of society.
DPAC will return to Westminster on Friday — this time to the nearby DWP headquarters — for a protest tea party.
Star comment: p10
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