Groups of disabled, sick and elderly people will take to the streets in central London today to protest loudly against government welfare cuts that hit the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society.
They are planning to engage in "a daring and disruptive act of civil disobedience", and have asked for the support of all others who back their struggle for dignity and rights - including UK Uncut, who are playing a significant role in the protests.
The huge campaign for a pause and rethink of the Welfare Bill, against cuts hitting disabled people and vulnerable groups, and for positive alternatives to current policies has been initiated by disabled and sick activists themselves.
The Spartacus Report, highlighting the gross failures of the government on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and more, has been an internet sensation - bringing millions onto social networking sites and involving thousands in lobbying.
Activists are meeting at 11.30am at Holborn tube station with a charged Oyster [travel] cards, ready to go to a secret location.
UK Uncut declared: "Britain isn’t perfect. But our welfare state offers something that everyone can be proud of. It’s a comforting thought that if tomorrow you lost your job, your home or even a limb, society would be there to help you through it. At least until now. The government’s Welfare Reform Bill is just weeks away from becoming law and is the biggest threat the welfare state has faced in its history."
The group continued: "The Bill will take vital lifelines from the most vulnerable people in society. Right now, 500,000 families stand to lose their homes. Others will become imprisoned in them. Half a million will lose their disability allowance, including disabled children. People with terminal illnesses will be forced into work, and 3.2 million will be put through cruel tests that are pushing some to take their own lives. Millions of people – pensioners, low waged workers, the disabled, sick and unemployed – will fall deeper into poverty."
"What is the government’s excuse for all this?", they ask. "The deficit, of course. Yet it continues to turn a blind eye to the £25 billion in tax dodged by corporations and rich individuals every year, a sum greater than the projected savings of the entire Welfare Reform Bill. Vodafone’s brand new £2bn tax dodge alone could pay for all of the cuts to Disability Living Allowance, which affects 500,000 people."
"Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and co are choosing to inflict suffering on sick and disabled people rather than tackle rich tax dodgers, because they think the poor and vulnerable are invisible - that they won’t or can’t make a fuss - and the rest of us don’t care," declared UK Uncut.
"The Lords have already shot down some of the government’s most damaging proposals. Our aim now is to shame the government into withdrawing the bill completely and instead create a welfare system that protects us all. Let’s make sure everyone knows that Mr Cameron would rather make millions off sick and disabled people’s lives a misery than collect the tax from his millionaire mates," the statement concluded. “And yes, disabled people will be among the hardest hit by these cuts, but they will also hit back the hardest.”
The petition from Pat Onions and the lobbying organised by 38 Degrees will also be vital in mobilising people to pressurise Lords and especially MPs before the WRB goes back to parliament on 31 January and 1 February.
The government expects that it will use its majority to ignore six defeats in the Lords and massive criticism right across civil society. But activists plan to make it a massive nonviolent battle.
* UK Uncut - http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/
* Spartacus Report (#spartacusreport) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport
* Pat's Petition (Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families): http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968
* 38 Degrees action in disability and welfare cuts - http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/speakout/cuts-to-support-email-mp