Disability activists blocked one of central London‘s busiest road junctions on Wednesday with a line of wheelchair users chaining themselves together in the latest in a series of direct action protests against welfare cuts.
The protesters used metal chains and security locks to block two junctions around Trafalgar Square bringing traffic to a standstill for more than two hours.
The demonstration was organised by Disabled People Against the Cuts (Dpac) which has taken the lead in several direct action anti-cuts protests over the past two months.
“We are fed up with being vilified as scroungers by successive governments,” said Dpac co-founder Debbie Jolly, from Leicester. “We are sick of hearing about disabled people who have died from neglect and lack of services or who have committed suicide because services and benefits were withdrawn from them. We want to make sure politicians know we will not accept these attacks on our lives any longer.”
Planned cuts to the Disability Living Allowance could see 500,000 disabled people losing money, the charity Mencap has said.
Around 100 people took part in the demonstration and police armed with bolt cutters tried in vain to clear the road. The protesters eventually called an end to the demonstration at around 4pm
“It has been great,” said Adam Lotum, 49, a father who recently lost his Disability Living Allowance due to the cuts. “People are talking about the issue now and we hope that that message is getting through to government – the message that they have picked on the wrong group – we are not going to stand for it any longer.”
Lotum said that since the welfare reforms, government ministers had given the impression that disabled people were “scroungers or work-shy”, and that had led to growing hostility in the street.
“Many times I have been at a road crossing waiting for a traffic light and I have been pushed into the path of oncoming traffic. I’ve had doors shut in my face when I am using my walking-stick, I’ve had it kicked away from me. People have sworn at me, accused me of being a fraudster and a criminal and accused me of taking money away from them.”
Lotum, from Reading, said he wanted the government to realise the impact the cuts were having on ordinary people.
“What I would like to achieve from this protest is to see the government and all interested parties talking to real people on the street and in their homes. Finding out how they are being affected by the cuts, how their lives have changed and how they are being discriminated against.”