Protesters in wheelchairs blocked the MPs’ entrance to the House of Commons to demonstrate against disability cuts, supported by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who reportedly helped the activists through security.
Keith Walker, one of the protesters, said McDonnell came down to security to help the Disabled People Against Cuts activists gain access to the Palace of Westminster, after security staff spotted their T-shirts emblazoned with their protest slogan.
“They weren’t going to let us in, until John McDonnell came down and got us in,” Walker told the Guardian.
In another show of support, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn greeted the group and was met with chants of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”. One of the women activists shouted: “Jeremy, you are with us and we are with you!”
The group came to protest against cuts to social care and demand the restoration of the independent living fund. “This is a message to Theresa May – while we have no justice, you will have no peace,” they chanted. “No more deaths from benefit cuts.” The group said they were also calling for the prime minister’s resignation.
Police blocked the group of protesters from going towards the House of Commons from the central lobby, one of Palace of Westminster’s main thoroughfares.
The Labour MP Dennis Skinner and the Green party leader, Caroline Lucas, also came to greet and talk to the group, who formed a barricade across the entrance to the House of Commons members’ lobby for about an hour.
The demonstration continued without incident, with some MPs clambering around the stone pillars on either side of the lobby entrance to get past the group and into the chamber.
In a letter to MPs delivered by the group, activists said the funding crisis in social care meant they were facing “a very real and detrimental impact on disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community”.
The result of the cuts to the independent living fund, a Labour initiative closed by the coalition government as part of austerity measures, has been “devastating for disabled people, locked away whether in their own homes, supported living or residential care”, the group said.
“On a societal level this is a regression of the right to independent living and a return to a segregated society where disabled people are separated from their communities and invisible to the wider public, behind closed doors.”
Cathy, one of the wheelchair activists who formed the barricade, said: “We’re here because it’s the last PMQs before recess. MPs have been quite supportive, John McDonnell helped us get through security.”
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