Today there was a demonstration called by Birmingham Trades Union Council to celebrate May Day— International Workers Day.
May Day celebrates International Workers Day and is marked traditionally when the Trade Union Movement gathers with the community to celebrate our achievements and to commit ourselves to achieving economic and social justice for all.
Birmingham TUC worked together with Birmingham Against the Cuts and invited trades unionists, students and the public to join this demonstration to stop the cuts and fight for an alternative based on our needs, not bankers greed!
DPAC was there with our stall and banner at the start at St Philips Cathedral – we were to march through part of the city centre to Victoria Sq where there were speeches. I joined Matt, Linda and Paul there to hand out leaflets and chat to the people there. It was a lively crowd and people seemed genuinely interested to stop and chat and to take up handouts. There was a UKuncut group dressed up in white body suits with black tipped markings – they said the body stockings were what the UKuncut people (Fortnum and Mason Solidarity Bloc) had to wear after the Fortnum and Mason event in London, 26th march. Next to our stall was the Confronting Anti Muslim Hatred stall. There was also an anti war stall.
Soon after 12 noon we set out on the rally – it was a rather good natured crowd and we hardly saw any police. A bit of noise but not much chanting with a few kids. All in all, there was a rough estimate of 200 perhaps. The UKuncut group stopped outside Primark to protest about non payment of taxes I think. I wound my way through the marchers with Linda and Paul holding the banner taking photos and handing out leaflets about DPAC. Linda told me later that someone asked her if she was taking care of me and if I had enough battery in my chair to last out the march! I had an older gentleman tell me he was buying me an ice cream but it never materialise!
Some of the people there were from the general public and quite a few of the older people there spoke of their own fears to me. I would have liked to be able to chat more except I had to keep up with the crowd. They were quite a few open to chatting – it might be due to the weather!
We had the speeches about the cuts in Birmingham and how it affects the workers and service users in Birmingham and the recent legal case won against the council. I also read out the DPAC speech prepared for the day.
We did some networking and packed up at about 3 pm. I was not aware till later that the UKuncut group took some rough treatment at the Bull Ring shopping centre where they demonstrated against the non payment of taxes against Phil Green. (Fortnum and Mason Solidarity Bloc off Birmingham Mayday demo organised by Birmingham against the cuts after the demo the bloc went to topshop in the bullring to raise awareness about the £300 million pound tax dodge by Philip Green) Photos of this event is at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/04/478508.html
May Day Photos are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626615066674/
Speech at the rally
Disabled people continue to face a multitude of attacks against their ability to live independently in the community and to take a full and active part in society along with their non-disabled peers.
These cuts include the abolition of Disability Living Allowance, a benefit awarded to meet the extra costs of being disabled, where even before further testing of disabled people starts the Coalition government have said they will remove 20% of disabled people from entitlement to it and that we are financially unsustainable. This benefit in particular allows many disabled people to work and therefore pay taxes.
1 million disabled people – not fraudsters as many newspapers would have people believe, are also being thrown off Incapacity Benefit and forced to seek non-existent jobs. But rather than removing the barriers to work for disabled people the coalition government have put even more obstacles to employment in place and with changes to Access to Work funding, a reduction to the Health and Safety Executive and the massive reduction of public sector jobs which provides employment for far more disabled people then the private sector.
Planned changes to social housing tenure and changes to housing benefits will also affect disabled people very badly and are likely to lead to an increasing number of homeless disabled people as well as pushing many into further poverty.
At a local level disabled people are already losing funding for care and support and together with the closure of day centres many are becoming isolated in their own homes. Social care is not free for the majority of disabled people either and locally in parts of the West Midlands people living on already meagre incomes are being expected to pay up to £50-£60 a week towards their care.
Mental Health services are also being drastically reduced in many areas due to cuts in NHS jobs and funding.
While many of you here today may think that what happens to disabled people is of little interest to you it’s important for everyone to realise that most disabled people have acquired an impairment due to illness, accident, or old age., so helping us to fight for our rights and not be reliant on charity could help you or someone you care about in the future.
What I believe we all share in common however is that we are all being attacked by this millionaire government and that we have to fight for our futures together.
So what have DPAC done over the last 6 months?
All around the country together with others we’ve made it impossible for Condem politicians to leave the safety of Westminster and go out to visit places. Here in Birmingham MPs either were forced to use the back door on several occaisons or didn’t turn up. In London Boris Johnson was seen to cycle away from a group of protesters. We need to keep this up and make sure when they venture out into the community they can’t use the front door anywhere.
Secondly in Birmingham the council have been stopped from removing 11.000 disabled people from receiving care by changing the eligibility criteria, This has been partly through pressure and partly through some disabled people winning a recent legal case. Other disabled supporters of DPAC also have a Judicial Review pending against the heavily criticised Work capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance. A further case about Housing Benefit case is going to the Court of Appeal also.
We also now have several local DPAC groups around the country as well and our campaigns against ATOS the private firm raking in millions of pounds for testing disabled people’s fitness to work are supported by politicians, union branches, and over 55 local claimant and anti-cuts groups. This campaign has so far involved three national days of action which resulted in ATOS offices all over the country, from Dundee to Truro, being closed down for the day.
We have been involved in organising an International week of protest against ATOS starting on May 9th again aimed to close down their offices all around the country. We have also and will continue to picket their recruitment fares when they try to recruit vaguely medical staff to carry out their tick box computer assessments. Of those tested by ATOS and found fit for work 70% who have representation and 40 % without any representation have the decision overturned on appeal, although it can take up to 12 months to reach a tribunal hearing because there are so many cases wrongly assessed.
We have also protested against the scandalous lies printed in the Daily Mail and are now involved in further campaigning against them. Its only in unity that we can achieve some success so we salute solidarity! in working together in the future.