Demonstration against Atos & police repressionTagged as: atos atostwo atos_healthcare austerity benefits cuts disability repression welfare
Neighbourhoods: london nottingham
On Friday 3rd February, campaigners returned to Atos Healthcare's offices on Stoney Street in the Lace Market, Notttingham.
This was the first protest there since a demonstration on September 30th last year, part of a national day of action, which ended with two of the participants being arrested, and subsequently charged, with aggravated trespass.
While the charges were dropped in January, the protest was a reminder to Atos that people have not been intimidated by the arrests and that protests will continue as long as they are making people's lives a misery.
Protesters met at the junction of Carlton Street and Heathcote Street, Hockley (outside Ice Nine). The police drove past several times before coming over looking for organisers, eventually offering some vague road safety advice before leaving again.
The demonstration set off at around 12.45 to walk the short distance to Atos' offices. There people formed up on both sides of the road. There was some chanting, although people were struggling for slogans. "Atos kills," "Atos they don't give a toss" and "Atos out" were all attempted with varying success.
There were around 30 people, supplemented by a small gaggle of student journalists (their professional counterparts were seemingly uninterested), an impressive turnout given the extreme cold.
There were two brief speeches. The first delivered by one of the "Atos Two" was about their own experience of the criminal justice system and the need to continue the fight against both Atos and the economic system of which it is a product.
The second speech focussed on the policing of protest (touching on the publication the previous day of the HMIC report into this matter), arguing that the police would always be used to render protest ineffective in a class system and that this would only become more obvious as the government sought to impose "austerity" on an unwilling populace.
After the speeches, there was some more chanting and general milling about. No wanting to hang around too long given the cold, protesters decided to leave at around 1.30pm and made their way back to Hockley and then to Market Square. There, the placards produced for the demo were set-up around the Occupy Nottingham camp where they attracted quite a bit of attention.
It appears that the police and Atos were taking the protest fairly seriously. There were two police officers visible at their offices, a couple of vans driving around, presumably in case there were any problems and at least one private security guard. Throughout they made little effort to interfere, even when people were standing in the road outside Atos (the pavement there is very narrow).
This was a relatively small and relatively brief demonstration, but it sent out an important message that campaigners would not be intimidated by heavy handed policing and that Atos will not be able to carry on making people's lives a misery without facing resistance. Campaigners made it clear that they intended to return and that this was only part of a long-term campaign.
In London, welfare rights campaigners held a solidarity demonstration at around the same time at Atos' Triton Square headquarters.