Protesters block Oxford Circus in demonstration against Welfare Reform Bill

By News Reporters

People holding banner in protest against Welfare reform Bill.

Tax avoidance equals £25 billion; welfare cuts equals £4.5 billion say the demonstrators who gathered at Oxford Circus. Photo: Fitzrovia News Community Newspaper Group.

Part of Oxford Circus and Regent Street was completely blocked today (Saturday 28 January) as more than 200 people gathered to protest against the government's Welfare Reform Bill. Disabled People Against Cuts, Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and UK Uncut came together to speak out against government plans which they say are "unfair, unnecessary and unpopular".

A banner says drop the welfare reform bill.

Drop the Welfare Reform Bill. Activsts came to support disabled people against the government cuts to welfare. Photo: Fitzrovia News Community Newspaper Group

The location of the protest had been kept secret until after protesters had gathered. They then marched to Oxford Circus where at midday a group of wheelchair users chained themselves together in the middle of Regent Street bringing the area to a complete standstill. They were joined by people who had responded to a call by UK Uncut to “shame the government into withdrawing the bill completely”.

Police standing at Oxford circus.

Police attempted to keep buses moving along Oxford Street. Photo: Fitzrovia News Community Newspaper Group

Police attended and attempted to keep buses moving along Oxford Street and a samba band created a party atmosphere.

The protest comes after a week in which the bill stalled on its progress through Parliament, with many aspects rejected by the House of Lords. Opposition has been mounting following publication of the “spartacus report” which was written, researched and funded by disabled campaigners, and which claims that the government misled the public and “broke its own code of consultation”.

ITN’s report

Video of protest chant

Video of samba band playing.

In a press release UK Uncut said the following:

Recent reports have shown that as a result of the bill 500,000 families stand to lose their homes while others will become ‘imprisoned in them’. Nearly half a million people would lose their Disability Living Allowance, including disabled children. People with terminal illnesses would be forced into work, and 3.2 million will be put through demanding tests that have already pushed some to take their own lives. The government’s own research admits that this flagship reform will push 100,000 children into poverty.

The government has defended the bill on the grounds that it needs to cut the deficit. However, the protesters point out that much greater amounts of money are lost through tax dodging by the super-rich each year. In January, Private Eye revealed a further £2 billion tax dodge by Vodafone, in addition to the £6 billion scam revealed in 2010. The most recent dodge by Vodafone is greater than the cuts to Disability Living Allowance, which will affect half a million people.

Rosemary Willis from Disabled People Against Cuts said: “Maria Miller, so-called Minister for disabled people, has repeatedly stated that we are ‘financially unsustainable’ and we want to ask this government exactly what they mean by that. We will not let this government push through these changes which have already led to disabled people taking their own lives.”

UK Uncut supporter Josie McDermot, 32, said “The welfare reform bill is cruel and and unnecessary, and this protest is an essential way to persuade the government to scrap their plans. It is great to be part of such a broad and powerful campaign against the Welfare Reform Bill and to keep building the pressure that has already been piled on with the Spartacus report.

She added, “It is typical bully tactics by the government to force marginalised people in society to pay for the economic downturn, while letting bonuses run wild and rich companies continue tax dodging to the tune of £25bn”

Sign the petition asking the government to think again on welfare reform.

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