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Police accused over PMQs tactics

Published 24/06/2015

Disability rights campaigners protest outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, after they had disrupted a session of Prime Minister's Questions. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Disability rights campaigners protest outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, after they had disrupted a session of Prime Minister's Questions. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Disability rights campaigners protest outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, after they had disrupted a session of Prime Minister's Questions. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Disability rights campaigners protest outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, after they had disrupted a session of Prime Minister's Questions. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Protesters tried to get access to the House of Commons

Police were accused of using "heavy handed tactics" as they blocked disabled protesters from entering the House of Commons chamber while David Cameron was answering Prime Minister's Questions.

In chaotic scenes in Parliament's Central Lobby dozens of police officers formed a human barrier outside the entrance to the chamber to stop the protesters, including around 10 in wheelchairs, from getting in.

The Metropolitan Police said that one person and their carer were ejected from the Palace of Westminster for disorderly behaviour but insisted that there was no breach of security.

The protest, organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac), came as a last-ditch measure ahead of the closure of the independent living fund (ILF), which provides support for people to live in their communities rather than go into residential care.

Protester Mary Johnson, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, whose daughter Helen is an ILF recipient, accused police of a "disgusting" response to the protest in Parliament.

She said she witnessed one protester being "dragged away by police" and claimed officers had been "pushing wheelchairs around".

She s aid: "We tried to get down there because the Government needs to listen. We tried to get into the chamber but we were stopped by police."

Paula Peters, from Dpac's national steering group, said police used "quite heavy handed tactics to separate PAs (personal assistants), who the disabled need to support them ... they are separating PAs from disabled people".

Speaking outside Parliament, Ms Peters said: "Over 30 people, disabled activists, independent living fund users and Dpac members, have gone in, they made a rush for the House of Commons doors. Police threw themselves on them to stop them from doing that."

She added that "a lot of these guys have very severe impairments, wheelchairs with their equipment" but were "facing down police officers" .

She said: "They are desperate, they are frightened for their future, they feel they have got no future and they are prepared to take this action to show to the world that they are not going to run from the Government, from a fight.

"They are prepared to fight for their rights with everything they have."

After leaving the building a group of the protesters lined up their wheelchairs across Abingdon Street outside the Palace of Westminster, blocking traffic in both directions, before heading to the gates of Downing Street.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: " At around 12:20pm officers were alerted to the protesters attempting enter the Commons chamber.

"Officers prevented this. One person and their carer were ejected from the Palace of Westminster for disorderly behaviour. No one was arrested.

"Orderly protesters were allowed to remain in the Central Lobby to continue their protest.

"The parliamentary business in the Commons Chamber was not interrupted.

"Public access to the Central Lobby was restricted for around 30 minutes whilst officers dealt with the situation. At no point was security compromised."

The ILF is being closed on June 30 next year, affecting more than 18,000 people, but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted that recipients would still receive support through local councils.

A DWP spokesman said: "Under these changes, the care and support needs of ILF users will continue to be met, but within a single care and support system.

"More than £260 million will be made available to former ILF users in 2015/16 and local authorities and devolved administrations will be fully funded to ensure disabled people get the targeted support they need to live independent lives."

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