The Metropolitan Police has been accused of “degrading and humiliating” treatment of people with disabilities who took part in the Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
In isolation, this would be bad enough – but it is just the latest in a series of incidents targeting disabled protesters, by forces across the UK.
Now the Met’s independent advisory group says the bullying that took place may have caused “irreparable damage” to relations with disabled people.
Stop and think about that. This isn’t just a public relations problem – it’s a disaster for the police: “irreparable damage.”
According to The Guardian, advisory group chair Anne Novis said everybody in that organisation – all of them – were on the point of resigning because of the stories they were hearing from disabled people.
This is entirely understandable. The claim is that people with disabilities were deliberately and aggressively targeted by police.
Here’s an example of what police were doing: When a disabled protester outside Scotland Yard needed a carer to adjust her supplemental oxygen and provide other medicine, police arrested both on the grounds that they were an illegal assembly.
They had been there to protest after police had confiscated independent living equipment including wheelchairs, disability ramps, noise-cancelling headphones, specially adapted toilets and other items intended to make protest sites accessible to disabled people.
Another incident saw a blind protester released without his cane. And left to get home without any help at all.
Legal observers for Extinction Rebellion said they had expected violence by police – but had not reckoned on it being almost exclusively directed at disabled people in what appeared to be a “deliberate intimidation tactic”.
The Met has claimed that it does not single out any minority group or community – but this is unpersuasive in the light of the mountain of evidence against it.
And it seems part of a nationwide policy to target the disabled. Remember when anti-fracking protesters in Lancashire were targeted by police?
Those people then faced a secondary attack from the Department for Work and Pensions, who claimed that they did not deserve sickness and/or disability benefits because they were well enough to take part in a protest. Remember that?
We discovered then that the police had an agreement to share information on protesters with the DWP, precisely to help that government department unfairly strip disabled people of their benefits.
Loss of state benefits – for a disabled person – has led to starvation, the worsening of their condition through lack of medication, and – in some cases – suicide.
It may be considered an attempt to pass a death sentence on them, simply for daring to protest against something that is wrong.
Has the Met passed the details of the disabled XR protesters to the DWP, in the hope of forcing them into that fate?
I don’t know. But I feel sure we will find out.
Let us hope that we do so before it is too late.
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