"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Benefits

Opinion: I Remember, In Fact I’ll Never Forget…


“Remember when Teachers, Civil Servants, Policemen, Ambulance staff, Nurses, Midwives, Doctors and Fireman crashed the stock market, wiped out banks, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax? No, me neither.”

So goes the recent profile update that is doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter.

While I agree wholeheartedly, there are however things I CAN remember.

I remember the first time I was brutally assaulted and knocked unconscious by a tooled up gang….of police.

I remember losing my house due to unsubstantiated complaints by a neighbour who was in the BNP….by the nice people in the housing office.

I remember it taking five years to get custody of my small vulnerable children from their mentally ill mother because my word as a father was not given as much importance as the denials of maltreatment by their mother…by the nice lady social worker.

I remember being cut off the dole and having to beg on the street for money due to refusal of help…from the nice people at the Jobcentre.

I remember years of verbal, mental and physical abuse….at the hands of teachers.

I remember being brutalized and tormented while in custody and how currently a friend is having his mail thrown away…by prison officers.

I remember the year long battle to sort out my PAYE deductions that left me having to work an extra 4 hours a day just to break even…by the most helpful people at the tax office.

Yes, I remember.

It’s just as well I also remember that I’d never cross a picket line and I’ll be phoning in sick on November 30th because members of my union are going on strike. Ironic isn’t it….

Rick Dutton


Norfolk Community Respondents Initiative


There’s been a lot of talk over the last few months by the coalition government about the need for the public to accept difficult decisions that the state are making on our behalf.

These decisions are now about to affect all of us. Decisions we were not party to and have little say in. Most of them will likely be irreversible.

As you know,they involve cuts in our services such as in our health care system, in housing, cuts to state benefits, cuts in education, in fact few sectors of public ownership will remain untouched. More than that though, the level of cuts to the public purse are starting to affect the private sector too and very few of us over the next few years will be unaffected.

Let’s be brutally honest here-many of us will soon be losing our jobs, our houses, our benefits, in fact our whole way of life will likely see major upheaval, all across the country. Norfolk will not be spared, in fact there’s every reason to believe we’ll be one of the worst hit regions.

While this is occurring the left-wing in Britain march in our cities waving placards declaring FIGHT BACK and the right-wing rub their hands with glee and constantly repeat the mantra IT’S ALL LABOUR’S FAULT.

What the left-wingers mean is

‘I have a public sector job-support me or you’ll regret it!’

They offer little response when you ask,

‘Why? What are you going to do for us? Why aren’t you marching on our estates and offering us assistance-we’re the ones who’ll really be hit!’

What the right-wingers mean is

‘Don’t blame us for the mess we’re about to launch at you, just be grateful you live in Britain! We suggest you blame the foreigners among you.’

They offer little response when you ask,

‘How come the wealthiest in our country are getting wealthier and the rest of us are close to losing everything? If it’s all Labour fault why is there an international financial crisis, did they cause that too?’

We believe neither the left-wing or the right-wing, or the political parties that represent these clubs that come knocking for a few days every four years at election time with their promises, care one iota what happens to us as long as we do not become a problem. We are required to support the left, and accept the actions of the right.

Likewise while the right-wing would have us at each other’s throats using race as the issue, the left-wing would define us by identity (race, sexuality, disability, age, etc) and separate us accordingly, our own identity ghettos if you like.

These are simply two sides of the same coin. Both actions take away our fundamental and collective unifying force which is the power to organise ourselves and our lives based on our common goals and interests. No longer should we be celebrating our differences but recognizing our similarities.

And we should start by organising ourselves within our streets, neighbourhoods and communities.

We recently received a message from a supporter we have been speaking to over the phone,

“ I feel very strongly these groups are very important to communities – there are many people dealing with very serious problems with anti social behaviour, problems with their neighbours and hate campaigns where serious threats of harm are made to some families and the Police say they are unable to help as the communities are too scared to speak out in fear of  a back lash mostly due to of race, disability, culture and religion or just being a bit different? From personal experiences I have and am still fighting a battle of over 2 years against being bullied by local drug dealers, anti social behaviour and isolation and a hate campaign due to disability/mental health issues of a young member of our family. We have been forced into isolation and our neighbours around us from being able to speak to us in fear of them being targeted next, leading us to be forced to leave our home and friends just because they are not willing to be bullied by the offending people and do there best to report issues of crime in their community.

It was only 1 week ago the situation got so dangerous we were offered safe-housing in a B&B in a non disabled friendly place over 50 miles away from our loved ones and our pets to be put in kennels. But as much as we were scared and very fragile we refused to be bullied out of our home until we are ready and have somewhere suitable for our needs. – congratulations to those who have set up these support groups to help others. I can help in anyway I gladly would offer my help.”

The simple fact of the matter is that in many cases similar to the above the very organisations who could/should be helping to solve the highlighted issues rarely prove to be fit for purpose before or after the governments cuts. The Police work on a scaled target system and would be first in attendance if you lived in a mansion on Norwich’s Newmarket Road, but a council house
on the Heartsease? They may pop in several days later if you’re lucky, if at all.

Likewise the council, the social services…all appear to do more to hinder than help. Do we not pay our taxes? Are they not supposed to be working for US? Either they’ve forgotten who they serve or we’ve simply got it all wrong.

We are calling for a local debate. A debate for direction to set up local neighbourhood groups to tackle the repercussions of the cuts we now face and some of the more unsavoury issues the likes of the Police, the Council, political parties and the Womens Institute can’t handle! A debate in respect of forming a Norfolk Community Respondents Initiative which would be the first port of call to cover all situations in our communities from the basic checking in on the elderly in winter to turning out against bailiffs harassing members of the community, to the more difficult subjects such as violence on the streets outside our houses and so-called ‘antisocial behaviour’.

We would welcome input from all and will be organising local public meetings shortly and will post up the details in the next month. All we ask is that people leave their political parties at the door on the way in and come with an open mind and serious ideas and see if together we can’t create the communities we deserve as opposed to the ones our government suggests we live in. On a day when it emerges that the wealthiest boardroom directors are giving themselves 50% pay rises while we are close to destitute, it’s time we started finding inspiration from each other rather than populist celebrity.

We do not look to the past to some imaginary golden age when our communities were some how idyllic. We do however believe the future can be a lot brighter if we act together and finally wake up to the fact that the state and all it’s services are mostly not worth the price of a peak rate telephone call.

The Norfolk Community Respondents Initiative coming to your neighborhood soon.


Atos Mobbed – Poverty Pimps Shut Down By Benefit Claimants


The Second National Day of Protest Against Benefit Cuts took place yesterday with events targeting poverty pimps like Atos Origin and A4e.

Over 100 disabled protesters and claimants gathered at Triton Square, London where a noisy mob made their way to the front doors of Atos’ shiny corporate headquarters despite the best efforts of police to stop them.  Police formed a line protecting Atos whilst chants rang out of ‘Atos Kills’.  Many people spoke out of their often heart-rending experiences at the hands of Atos’ medical testing which has repeatedly stripped sickness and disability benefits from the most vulnerable.

Anti-poverty and disability protest groups were well represented including Disabled People Against CutsWelfare Action HackneyLondon Coalition Against PovertyMad Pride and many more.  Also present were members of PCS Union’s Euston branch who work in Euston Tower which overlooked the protest and who expressed solidarity with claimants.

Over the top as ever, the police briefly kettled the protesters.   After some time however people were able to leave if they agreed to be escorted from Triton Square, which lies on a privately owned business estate where protest is presumably not part of the corporate strategy.

One disabled protester valiantly attempted to breach the police line, but was bundled to the ground and dragged away to chants of ‘Let Him Go’.  With cameras everywhere and no doubt fearing another Jody Mcintyre youtube sensation they complied and as far as we know there were no arrests on the day.

Speeches and chanting continued as well as one impassioned song whilst many people, who had brought food to share, laid out a picnic alongside the impromptu free shop that had also been established.

It is unclear whether Atos closed their offices, but certainly the only people going in or out for the afternoon appeared to be cops and private security guards.  Also doing slow business were Virgin Health Clubs who found their main entrance inside the police lines and were therefore effectively closed for the afternoon.  They might like to think about that at their next meeting cosying up to the Condems in the hope of stealing a slice of the NHS.

As the day wore on police melted away and around 20 protesters headed to the Atos Testing Centre  and Jobcentre Plus administrative offices just up the road at Marylebone.  Entering the, admittedly almost closed building, they briefly occupied the Atos waiting room leaving messages of their experiences of Atos stuck to the walls.

Protests also happened around the country.  Atos testing centres were leafleted in Nottingham, Archway and Glasgow.  The protest outside Atos’ Scotland offices, reportedly in the middle of nowhere, still drew around 40 people and an equal number of police who surrounded the building and once again protected the poverty pimps.  Latest reports indicate heavy-handed policing but the good news is it appears Atos Scotland’s offices were closed for the day.  It’s nice to see Atos Origin being the vulnerable ones for a change.

A protest held in Leeds outside Atos called by West Yorkshire Solidarity Federation and autonomous claimants was successful in closing the Leeds branch of Atos’ corporate empire whilst a smaller, but successful protest in Burnley gathered significant local support.  Protests were also held in Newcastle, Lydney, Birmingham, Crawley, Chesterfield, Hastings and possibly elsewhere, please send details to notowelfarecuts (at) yahoo.co.uk.

Earlier in the week the Cardiff Unemployed Disco drew a fine crowd and they’re holding another one on February 18th.  It’s not over for Atos yet either as Brighton Benefits Campaign are holding an event this Saturday highlighting the pantomime which is the Work Capability Assessment.

Finally tories the length and breadth of the internet were well and truly trolled as part of the second National Troll A Tory Day.  Comments were left, letters to MPs written, petitions signed and Atos were not left out as many took advantage of their recently published health advice phone-lines.

Benefit claimants have vowed to be back with a third National Day of Action to be announced soon.  Atos Origin, the rest of the poverty pimps and the farcical Condem coalition should know that we are not going anywhere.

Pics of the London demo can be found at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/peteriches/with/5385496598/

 

http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/atos-mobbed/