Glasgow stands firm against ATOS

On 27 April, Iain Hodge, an unemployed father of one, committed suicide in his flat in East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire. Despite suffering from a life threatening blood condition, and despite being signed off as unfit to work by his GP, he had not received any money from the Department of Work & Pensions for 10 weeks. He was one of the 73 people who die each week after ATOS finds them capable of work.

Glasgow Against ATOS has continued to take the streets, organising protests, pickets, direct actions and meetings to demand justice for the victims of ATOS and welfare cuts, and demonstrate that solidarity and organisation can provide an alternative to despair. On Friday 31 May, up to 40 activists, including FRFI supporters, held a vigil outside the ATOS testing centre on Cadogan Street, Glasgow, with the photographs and names of some of those who have lost their lives as a result of the cuts placed on the wall outside. In response, police waded in and demanded that they be removed as they were on private property and then in a display of contempt, proceeded to rip down the pictures of the dead.

A militant rolling picket was then held in the city centre, with the police engaging in further provocation and harassment, entering shops to request that staff made complaints against the protest, threatening arrests for use of the megaphone, and at one point standing and joking with a senior member of the British National Party.

Glasgow Against ATOS (GAA), already subject to intimidation and arrests, is determined to defend the right to protest. At a recent anti-bedroom tax public meeting in the East End of Glasgow, at which a GAA member had been invited to speak, two uniformed police installed themselves at the back of the hall. The previous evening they had approached one of the meeting’s organisers at their home to try and garner information. The officers stated they had been told to attend as ‘troublemakers’ were likely to be at the meeting. The GAA speaker demanded they leave, and as one member of the campaign commented: ‘The police are not your friends, they are the private army of the bosses and big business, their real function is to keep a lid on things and to maintain the status quo. Remember, if the cops are about – say nowt!’

Despite the harassment, GAA has continued to expand its influence. On 2 May, a successful fundraiser was held, with over 250 people attending a benefit gig explicitly against ATOS and raising money for the Glasgow Defence Campaign fund for arrested activists. GAA supporters stood with carers from the Accord centre and others on 13 May in opposing the brutal closure of three disability day care centres by Glasgow’s Labour council, cuts explicitly targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in the city. The protest soon evolved into a direct action against a press conference being held by deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose SNP government welcomed ATOS as lead sponsors of the Commonwealth Games and has consistently failed to halt the attacks on the sick and disabled, including the day centre closures. Further occupations of Cadogan Street have also taken place.

Two supporters of FRFI arrested on a GAA picket in March are due to appear in Glasgow Sheriff Court at 9.30am on Wednesday 19 June: we urge as many people as possible to attend.

Joey Simons

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

 

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