More than 500 people rallied outside the offices of Paralympic sponsor Atos in central London this afternoon as part of a day of action called by Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) and UK Uncut.
Protesters included disabled people threatened with losing their benefits, Remploy workers recently made redundant, alongside trade unionists and Occupy London supporters who showed up in solidarity.
Hundreds then went down to blockade and occupy the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) at Caxton House in central London.
They were protesting against the “work capability assessments” that Atos carries out on behalf of the government to push disabled people off benefits.
Caroline Butterwick travelled down from Staffordshire university where she is chair of disabled students.
“It’s really unfair that they’re kicking people off their benefits,” she told Socialist Worker.
“It hasn’t happened to me yet, but it’s like a threat hanging over us all. It’s not disabled people who caused the financial crisis, so why should we be made to pay for it?”
Tony Bradstock, who suffers from ME, had to fight a lengthy campaign to win back his benefits after they were taken away by an Atos assessment.
“I’d like to see the whole assessment system scrapped,” he said. “It’s my doctor who understands my health, not some stranger with loaded questions and boxes to tick.”
Many on the protest were furious about the hypocrisy of Atos’s sponsorship of the Paralympic Games.
“It’s a cynical attempt to cash in on a celebration of disabled people’s achievements,” said TV actor and comedian Francesca Martinez, who has cerebal palsy.
“I hope people will see through the attempt to get positive publicity for a company that’s causing death and misery across the country.
“So many of the athletes that David Cameron says are inspirational wouldn’t have been able to realise their dreams without the state help he’s trying to take away.”
Earlier today, protesters heard the sad news that Cecilia Burns of County Tyrone had become the latest person to die after being declared “fit for work” by Atos.
She spent six months fighting to have her employment support allowance reinstated, but died from her breast cancer a week after this happened.