Commons cops try to block disabled people’s rally in Parliament against heartless Tories’ killer cuts
by Felicity Collier & Tom Lansdell
DISABLED people faced off with armed police at Parliament yesterday as they were told their T-shirts exposing the savage nature of Tory cuts were off-limits.
The campaigners were there to lobby MPs over the horrendous toll the Conservatives’ austerity and blitz on essential benefits had had on disabled people.
But as half a dozen coppers walled off the entrance they were told to take off their tops or cover them up.
The rally was part of a week of action organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) to flag up the brutal nature of the attacks.
Activist Paula Peters condemned the police action as discrimination and said it had set off some people’s mental health conditions.
Some of the banned T-shirts simply carried the DPAC linked-arms logo.
One man, who asked to be referred to just as Kevin, was barred from meeting his MP because his top read: “This is what a person with an invisible disability looks like.”
“We are not a threat! We are disabled people!” he stormed at the coppers’ injustice.
Others could be heard saying: “We are human beings, just like you,” while Ms Peters pointed out that no political symbol was used on their shirt.
One activist blasted: “Do you want me to go into Parliament topless?”
Another person, Keith, said he’d worn his DPAC shirt twice before in Parliament and it hadn’t caused any stir — raising questions about whether embarrassed Tories had tried to head off the campaigners using dirty tricks.
It took the direct intervention of John McDonnell, a staunch ally of disabled people in their fight for justice, to get the police to lift their blockade.
Showing their resolve, wheelchair-using protesters lined up in front of the MPs’ entrance to the Commons chamber, forcing them to face up to their decisions on Bills that have stripped essential support and benefits from some of Britain’s most vulnerable.
Mr McDonnell applauded DPAC, who “have been consistently campaigning to expose what’s going on and they want to bring their voice to Parliament.”
Ellen Clifford of DPAC’s steering group said campaigners want Prime Minister Theresa May’s promised social care consultation — scheduled for later in the year — to address the scrapping of the independent living fund (ILF), cuts to personal independence payments (PIP) and notoriously unfair benefit assessments.
The ILF was set up in 1988 to ensure vital support at home for severely disabled people, including carers and personal assistants. But the Tories shut the door on new applicants in 2015 and those already registered have been put under review.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stopped to tell the Star: “The cuts to ILF and social care are obviously disastrous and serious within our society.
“We called the Tories out on this and will continue to do so.”
In the Commons lobby, Ms Peters led calls of: “No more deaths from benefit cuts. Give us a right to live.”
Choruses of “Theresa May resign” and “Shame on you” rung out among protesters, before they approached the Commons only to be blocked by a police line.
“Come on Theresa May, come out and face us,” Ms Peters demanded, before branding former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith a “murderer” because of the number of people who have died after having benefits cut.
“We will hunt you down and put you in the dock. You’ve got blood on your hands,” she said.