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 Cuts, Welfare Action Hackney, London Coalition Against Poverty, Mad 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/