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Posts Tagged ‘DPAC’

Monday the 2nd March 2015 saw the ‘National Day of Action Against Maximus – Same Circus, Different Clowns’ – given that there was a protest in solidarity with us in Toronto it would be fairer to call it an International Day of Action!

The day was organised by Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle, Mental Health Resistance Network, #NewApproach and UK Uncut.

Events took place in Balham, Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Croydon, Dundee, Ealing, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gloucester, Hull, Huddersfield, Inverness, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Manchester, Norwich, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Sheffield, Stockton-On-Tees, Sunderland, Truro, Wrexham and the Maximus HQ in central London.

I attended the demonstration at the Maximus HQ at 29 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H. We were blessed with a bright sunny day which put everyone in good spirits and ready to make our voices heard. You can view a slideshow of images from the day at the foot of this page.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been described as ‘The Greatest Sham on Earth’ and those who are unaware of its absurdities tend to think you are exaggerating when you tell them how stupid and irrational it is. The WCA has but one intention and that is to reduce welfare spending no matter the human cost, and make no mistake, there has been a human cost. I can speak of this first hand. For one very close to me, an impending WCA, combined with a fear of Iain Duncan Smith’s many other pernicious ‘reforms’, played a part in an attempt upon their own life. This resulted in a long stay in hospital and I still see the fear in her eyes whenever a ‘brown envelope’ arrives. Medical staff treating her have told me that her actions, in response to the Coalition’s welfare cuts, are not uncommon. Has it really come to this in the United Kingdom, of all places? David Cameron recently said that ”The measure of how our society is, is how we treat its most vulnerable members”; he is right, and he has failed.

Demonstrations and bad publicity played a part in forcing ATOS to run away from the contract to carry out this hated test, Maximus willingly took up the poisoned chalice and 2nd March was the first working day of their new contract; hence why we found ourselves outside their offices. Later we took to the streets and, having occupied a roundabout, the public were given a demonstration of just how absurd the Work Capability Assessment is. It took the form of a circus with such exciting acts as hoop jumping, empty milk bottle carrying and a cardboard box lifting competition; these being references to assessment criteria used to find people ‘fit for work’. The performance ended with everyone joining in with the ‘Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group’ rendition of David Cameron Is A Wanker.

Twitter and other social media outlets were utilised by those who could not intend in person but wanted to take part. The twitter hashtag #Maximarse started trending and put Maximus into such a state of panic that they bought up many variations of the domain name to stop others from using it. Ah well, it is not as if anybody working for Maximus have anything better to do with their time, exploiting people has never been easier than under this Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition.

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All Photographs Copyright (c) 2015 Christopher John Ball

You can view images from previous DPAC disability campaigns I have attended and photographed here

Christopher John Ball is, along with Dean Sipling, co-author of the play Throwing Stones – ‘What’s in your family album?’ Order your copy today from Amazon

“Mid-life male photographer meets young, nubile female student-cum-artistic muse – so far it’s old hat. But photographer turned playwright Christopher John Ball and co-writer Dean Sipling, whose background is film and television, bring the pairing into a thoroughly contemporary world of intercepted emails, sinister insinuation and sharp retorts. Their ‘guilty until proved innocent’ plot … is thoroughly watchable and believable – perhaps as a result of Ball’s professional insights and DS Dom Lucas’ services as police advisor to the production” Barbara Lewis – The Stage

2015 will see the publication of three monographs featuring fine art photography by Christopher John Ball. Watch this blog for further details.

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On July 4th 2014 DPAC organised events around the country, to highlight the fight to keep the Independent Living Fund, through a series of ‘Independent Living Day’ parties and picnics.

I attended the London party held outside the DWP Offices at Caxton House in Tothill Street SW1. The fun and games started at 2 pm. I arrived later than I would have liked due to my hip having other ideas, so I missed the beginning and most of the CAKE! As the events got underway the party spilled over into Twitter via the #IL4JULY hashtag.

On the 28th June 2014 DPAC had attempted to stage a peaceful protest/vigil in support of the Independent Living Fund(report and photographs here) at Westminster Abbey. Sadly the Dean, after but a brief period of deliberation, decided that, rather than support us, the appropriate Christian response, to such a peaceful action, would be to call the police so that we could be evicted from the temple.

Given the aforementioned actions, upon hearing that a group of disabled individuals had taken it upon themselves to peacefully gather to enjoy a roadside picnic and eat a bit of cake, Westminster Abbey upped its security; well, you can never be too careful. There had been cake after all; think of the sugar rush being experienced, anything could have happened.

After we had had our fill of cake, myself excluded of course but that is what happens when one is late (I’m not bitter about missing out on cake, honest), we moved on to indulge in a little dessert; mild civil disobedience flavoured. This took the form of a temporary road block across where Tothill Street meets Victoria Street

After a few minutes of peaceful, if somewhat noisy, traffic blockage the Police Liaison Officer asked if it were possible for one side of the road to be cleared so that an ambulance might pass. This rather nice officer (aren’t they all in the Met Liaison Department) assured us that this wasn’t a ruse on the part of the Metropolitan Police Service and there really was an ambulance on its way. We decided to clear a way for said ambulance and as soon as we had, no surprises, scores of officers arrived to fill in the space we had created and block any attempt on our part to recreate the road block. Of course no ambulance made an appearance, the Police Liaison Officer saying it had been diverted (wink, wink). If I were being honest, I personally would rather be made to look foolish by the Metropolitan Police than to have stood my ground and endangered someone by delaying access to their medical requirements. The Metropolitan Police played upon our good natures; shame on them;-)

Of course one cannot be allowed to block a main road, especially in central London and on a weekday, except of course when the authorities want to do so; as they did on Sunday and Monday for the Tour de France. Then, the good lads and lasses of the Metropolitan Police Service will go out of their way to facilitate closures rather than kettle.

As an aside, I have started to become increasingly aware, whilst participating in these peaceful demonstrations, that the Metropolitan Police appear to be focusing in, literally in the case of the officers gathering video evidence, upon our impairments; as if to identify (objectify) us by them and in other cases to impede progress. It makes for a very unpleasant experience and one that seems out of place in a democracy; indeed it calls up images from a much darker time in European history. We must be ever vigilant, no doubt the likes Iain Duncan Smith already have the cattle trucks on order, I shall explore this in a later blog.

Below are photographs made during the day in a slideshow format. I have split the images into two sets.

DWP Offices Caxton House, Tothill Street

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Road block across Victoria Street

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All Photographs Copyright (c) 2014 Christopher John Ball

Christopher John Ball is, along with Dean Sipling, co-author of the play Throwing Stones – ‘What’s in your family album?’ Order your copy today from Amazon

“Mid-life male photographer meets young, nubile female student-cum-artistic muse – so far it’s old hat. But photographer turned playwright Christopher John Ball and co-writer Dean Sipling, whose background is film and television, bring the pairing into a thoroughly contemporary world of intercepted emails, sinister insinuation and sharp retorts. Their ‘guilty until proved innocent’ plot … is thoroughly watchable and believable – perhaps as a result of Ball’s professional insights and DS Dom Lucas’ services as police advisor to the production” Barbara Lewis – The Stage

2014 will see the publication of three monographs featuring fine art photography by Christopher John Ball. Watch this blog for further details.

Read Full Post »

Independent Living Fund (ILF) recipients and disabled activists from DPAC (of which I am proud to be a member) peacefully occupied part of the grounds outside Westminster Abbey for five hours on Saturday, the 28th June 2014, in protest at plans to close the fund. There is a slideshow of images I made during the day at the foot of this article for your perusal.

As the demonstration got underway, and protesters in wheelchairs locked themselves to fences at the site, supporters on Twitter were given the signal to start to trend the #saveILF hashtag. MP John McDonnell tweeted the following ‘Congratulations to those who supported DPAC’s ILF protest at Westminster Abbey today. Proud to be with you. Heroes and heroines all.’

Despite a written request, explaining the reasons for our actions and our assurances that we would respect Abbey grounds, the Dean, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, refused permission for us to stay. Sadly, this refusal led to, what looked like, more than 230 officers policing our peaceful protest. In addition to this number, several officers were posted outside and around the Abbey.

From inside the protest, this excessive number of officers felt very threatening indeed. At one point, an officer appears to have been instructed to block a disabled access ramp we had brought. This ‘seemed’ discriminatory as those more mobile could gain access. Whatever the reasons for the police undertaking this particular action, it was a PR disaster for the Met. Thankfully, it was abandoned and the officer moved to allow access to the green.

Officers stood on tenting materials in an attempt to prevent us from pitching them, thus denying us cover from the elements. In addition, for most of the day, no-one was allowed to move in or out of the site, not even to acquire, or be provided with food, medication or even to use toilet facilities.

In an attempt to make an arrest, police chased the individual in question into a Gazebo sheltering several wheelchair users. This action put those within the gazebo in danger and it appears that chairs may have been pushed over. I would request that the Met looks into how it polices actions undertaken involving disabled people.

John McDonnell tweeted updates ‘Looks like Church of England has turned it’s back on the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount as police surround disabled people at Abbey’ and ‘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’

Financial journalist, broadcaster & public speaker Paul Lewis Tweeted ‘Wonga shareholder calls police to clear disabled protesters off its lawn #saveILF’

This Liberal Democrat/Conservative Coalition are lying to the people, aided by a right wing media, about disabled individuals such as myself. The Coalition has placed scapegoating at the heart of its social and economic policy. It is what drives it, all part of its much trumpeted long term economic plan.

You may be OK with being lied to but I am not happy about being lied about; in fact, I am not sure I can survive it. I very nearly lost my partner, who lives with hidden disabilities, to Coalition policy last summer, but more about that in a later post.

Even though we are bearing the brunt of the cuts we have been patient, attempted to debate reasonably with an unreasonable Government, tried the legal process of the courts, forced debate in the House of Commons, Petitioned and yet all the lamentable Iain Duncan Smith does is either ignore us, retrospectively changes laws when he loses, or resorts to lying about us. This is why, after patiently going through the aforementioned processes, we are finding ourselves forced to undertake more direct action.

Such action is not undertaken lightly, it puts some of us at risk. In my own case, such was the level of pain I was experiencing I found myself having to contend with nausea and dizziness. I am still paying for it now. I know my pain management therapist will not be happy with me when she sees me next. Yes, you may well say that I brought that upon myself by attending the demonstration but desperate people undertake desperate actions. Wrong must always be fought, the truth must always be defended.

I am proud to say I took part, proud to have stood in solidarity with so many brothers and sisters but I couldn’t help looking around and thinking ‘Has it really come to this, in the United Kingdom of all places?’

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All Photographs Copyright (c) 2014 Christopher John Ball

Christopher John Ball is, along with Dean Sipling, co-author of the play Throwing Stones – ‘What’s in your family album?’ Order your copy today from Amazon

“Mid-life male photographer meets young, nubile female student-cum-artistic muse – so far it’s old hat. But photographer turned playwright Christopher John Ball and co-writer Dean Sipling, whose background is film and television, bring the pairing into a thoroughly contemporary world of intercepted emails, sinister insinuation and sharp retorts. Their ‘guilty until proved innocent’ plot … is thoroughly watchable and believable – perhaps as a result of Ball’s professional insights and DS Dom Lucas’ services as police advisor to the production” Barbara Lewis – The Stage

2014 will see the publication of three monographs featuring fine art photography by Christopher John Ball. Watch this blog for further details.

Read Full Post »

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