Disabled activists who have prepared a national week of protests against the Paralympic sponsor Atos have explained why they chose not to target the London 2012 games themselves.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) had suggested previously that they could target this week’s Paralympic torch relay, with a direct action protest at the decision to allow Atos to sponsor the games despite the anger surrounding its work for the government in assessing people for out-of-work disability benefits.
But the torch relay – which was low-key in comparison with the much longer Olympic version – passed off without any protests disrupting its progress.
DPAC has also been encouraged by suggestions – although not confirmed by any Paralympic athletes – that members of the ParalympicsGB team who attended the opening ceremony on Wednesday might have deliberately hidden their accreditation beneath their uniform because the strap – or lanyard – prominently features the Atos logo.
Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s steering group, said: “If it is the case that athletes have hidden their lanyards we commend and applaud those actions.
“We welcome their support and hope they will make more stands during these games, and come out and say what is on their minds as soon as they can.”
But he made it clear that he and his fellow DPAC campaigners would not be targeting the athletes, sporting events, or the games themselves.
He said they wanted the public to understand instead that they were targeting the “hypocrisy” of Atos sponsoring London 2012.
He said: “Our problem was with Atos and we wanted to make that really, really clear. We kept away from the Olympic Park and the torch relay and the opening ceremony.”
Greene said targeting the torch relay had been considered, but DPAC decided that such a protest would be “divisive”.
He said: “We had conversations with other people and it was the same feeling. People didn’t have a problem with the Paralympics, or the athletes. It was Atos that was the target.”
Instead of targeting London 2012, DPAC and other grassroots campaigning bodies have focused their attention on a week-long series of protests they have called the “Atos Games”, including a spoof “opening ceremony” on Monday – featuring retired Paralympian Tara Flood – and nationwide protests.
On Wednesday, campaigners delivered a coffin full of messages to Atos’s headquarters in central London, each note describing a disabled person’s experience at the hands of Atos assessors.
This protest aimed to draw attention to the estimated 1,100 people who died within six months of being found “fit for work” by an Atos “healthcare professional”, over just an eight-month period.
The DPAC coffin was turned away by Atos staff, but the company did accept the messages.
The protest was designed as a “poignant memorial” to those who have died, and so there was no attempt to occupy the offices.
Greene said the week had so far gone “fantastically well”, with more than 20 protests across the UK on Tuesday, including major actions in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Birmingham.
He said the protests had drawn widespread media attention for the first time, including a front page story in The Independent.
Campaigners from DPAC were due back tomorrow (Friday) at the Atos headquarters, along with members of the mainstream grassroots anti-cuts group UK Uncut, for a protest they are calling the Closing Atos Ceremony.
30 August 2012