London and South Yorkshire #FreedomRide & Sheffield DPAC Campaigners join in DPAC uk #SAVEILF action!The FreedomRide Campaigners were invited to send a speaker to a DCPAC UK /SAVE ILF picnic outside the DWP building on Friday July 4th.
Jennifer Dunstan of the FreedomRide campaign, Sheffield DPAC and South Yorkshire Unite community group and Gareth Lane of UNITE community union, travelled down from Sheffield to attend and speak at the event with a message of solidarity from the South Yorkshire FreedomRide campaign and also to inform and update the SAVE ILF protesters of the recent developments in the FreedomRide campaign.
It was a very hot day but that didn’t put the protesters off, people were enjoying sandwiches and beautifully presented cupcakes that had been donated and were being handed out to the crowd including vegan chocolate cupcakes that Jennifer had made and donated to the picnic as they listened to speeches and songs.
The mood was congenial but also full of determination, there was a lot of support for the FreedomRide campaign and the Group were delighted to be able to see the South Yorkshire Unite Community Banner and to have it on display at their event.
There were several independent and affiliated Journalists present including Demonix, BBC, The Mirror columnists that writes the ‘Real Britain’ column and several online bloggers were putting out live streams of the speeches and songs as well as passing through the crown interviewing individual activists.
An IMPORTANT observation of this fantastically organised event to note is that the DPAC group had organised a BSL SIGNER to stand next to speakers and translate to deaf or none speaking activists.
The fact that there was a SIGNER there made the event much more accessible and also increased *attendance* this meant that the words of the speakers were much more far-reaching. Which not only lends power to the campaign but also to the people that are directly affected by these austerity cuts!
Jennifer’s talk about the FreedomRide Campaign was streamed live online and was well received, the SAVE ILF campaigners were really proud of the actions and demos held so far and sent many of messages of solidarity through Jen back to the Campaign. At the end of the picnic the SAVE the ILF campaigners joined in with the FreedomRide song ‘FREEDOM TO RIDE’ which was absolutely fantastic!
The protesters then packed up and marched to Westminster, with their banners and placards accompanied by the South Yorkshire UNITE community banner.
They then promptly and with confidence and determination, marched, wheeled and skipped in coordination on to Victoria Street and completely blocked it off,chanting “SAVE THE ILF” over and over and with vigour!
The blockade was well executed, it was colourful, vibrant and well supported by the many and varied DPAC and SAVE ILF placards banners t shirts and art work.
There are many articles, pics and vids online including this one… where you can see the FreedomRide campaigners chanting in unison with the protesters it really was a fabulous display of joint campaign solidarity, although the action was very much the product of the SAVE ILF campaign, it was wonderful to see these separate anti cuts campaigns joining in active protest and we sincerely hope that there will be more and widespread networked and coordinated anti austerity actions throughout the counties especially from major cities, it really is time overdue that the Government sit up and listen to the people that their decisions are damaging.
The police soon arrived at the Victoria Street site in their dozens, two inspectors, many sergeants and PCs attended, there were 6 riot vans that parked up strategically and the gates and fences of westminster abbey were heavily guarded, not to mention the branch of Barclays bank much to everyone’s puzzlement.
At last count before the South Yorkshire reps left, the were over 4 police officers to each DPAC/SAVE ILF campaigners.
To our knowledge there were no arrests although there was a failed attempt by police to remove the blockade with a false report of an ambulance approaching the site and needing access to pass through Victoria Street. Please note that the protesters did move aside diligently and with the utmost respect for the report of the impending ambulance pathway but however it turned out to be a police tactic to disrupt the blockade. As soon as it became apparent that there was indeed no Ambulance approaching, the protesters took up their positions in the road and continued to campaign.
The police manouvered into positions which seemed to be a an attempt to create a kettle formation and also verbally informed to protesters that they would be starting to make arrests if they didn’t disband the blockade.
The protesters made a collective decision on a time to close the action and when they finished they cheered and blew whistles in victorious celebration.
There has been lots of disgruntled drivers but also plenty of support from passers by and people tooting horns and giving thumbs up in support as the police redirected traffic. Some passers by joined and physically stood with the blockade, even shaking hands and posing for photos in support.
There was so much online coverage but one particularly poignant tweet from @SophEpartridge really sums up the importance of protecting the ILF:
“If you were told your independent life was going to be cut and you may go 2 a nursing home, you’d stop traffic”.
We met and chatted to many protesters who had all benefited greatly from the ILF including one campaigner called “Matt” who told us he had just completed his masters degree in film, it had taken him 7 years and without the ILF he would never have been able to access the course let alone complete it. This campaign isn’t just a out money it’s about access to a right of a decent standard of living, of lifting barriers to independent living and of society supporting people where their individual needs or ability prevent to access to work, education, other essential services and even communication with other members of society.
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