- Created: Monday, 16 February 2015 13:21
- Written by Scotland Branches
On Thursday 5 February 40 protestors converged on Arbroath's Job Centre to challenge the arrest of Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox. Tony had been supporting a vulnerable client in the Job Centre who was having difficulty in using computers to meet her Job Search target. Official Department of Work and Pensions guidelines state that reasonable support must be given to claimants in this position and reasonable adjustments made to Job Search targets.
Tony accompanied the claimant to say that Job Centre staff had not followed these guidelines and tried to advocate for a review of the case. It was feared that a welfare sanction might result from any perceived failure to meet arbitrary targets. Staff terminated the interview claiming intimidation and a new appointment was scheduled. Leaving the building Tony was approached by the police investigating alleged 'threatening behaviour'. He refused to give his name and address and was suddenly cuffed and arrested. Bail conditions forbid him to enter the Job Centre in Arbroath.
Defying this outrageous criminalisation of welfare advocates and activists, a protest was publicly announced for the following Thursday and an SUWN defence formed at a meeting. Tony explained at the meeting that he had been visited at home by police to warn him that he risked arrest for any breach of bail. He was determined to attend the protest and publicly announced this step which was taken up by local media.
40 people from Dundee, Edinburgh, Arbroath, Forfar and Kirriemuir stood united in solidarity outside Arbroath Job Centre and through placards, banners, speeches and chants the arrest was condemned and the right to support vulnerable claimants proclaimed. The abusive use of welfare sanctions was highlighted and speakers expressed defiance at any attempt to limit and criminalise protest. See footage of the lively march here.
The protest was supported by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network campaigners, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Class War and many other activists. Tony Cox spoke and Michael MacGregor of the Revolutionary Communist Group/ Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! chaired the lively street event. Such was the confident mood of the protest that it was decided we should march into the town centre. The three cops were then made to earn their wages by assisting in crossing roads as we marched up Arbroath High Street for a militant and popular street rally in the main shopping area.
We are determined to resist criminalisation of protest and demand the immediate dropping of all charges.
POLICE HANDS OFF PROTEST!
END WELFARE SANCTIONS NOW!