|The ‘shrine’, before being taken into police custody|
This morning, a group of around fifty Merseyside activists gathered outside Liverpool’s ATOS testing centre, as part of a ‘pilgrimage’ called by Merseyside People’s Assembly to see the ‘miracle workers’. While there was a light-hearted and even cheerful feel to proceedings, it highlighted an extremely serious issue. Fighting it will have to wait for another day.
The Facebook callout stated that:
“Sick and disabled people are called in to ATOS and a large proportion are ‘cured’. There is apparently no need to travel to Lourdes these days in search of a miracle cure, there is a ‘healing’ site on our doorstep! We will congregate outside the miracle site at 11.00am, the more ‘nuns’ and ‘priests’ the better.”
The event was in stark contrast to recent demos in Liverpool, which have often had a dismal atmosphere, with activists apparently having no clue of what to do. The humorous aspect had the effect of bringing out relatively large numbers, and a different side to people to that normally on show at political gatherings.
Demonstrators came dressed as biblical characters, priests, nuns, and bishops. ‘Holy ATOS water’ was thrown around. Anti-ATOS songs were sung. The local media came and took photos.
After a couple of hours, a G4S security guard at the testing centre complained about a toy Smurf being placed on a ‘shrine’, and threatened to call the police unless the items were removed. A while after this, when much of the crowd had dispersed, the cops did indeed come, and the Smurf was taken into police custody.
The day was a success on its own terms, and very enjoyable, but no amount of negative publicity for ATOS will end the crime of sick and disabled people being forced onto dole queues to compete for jobs that do not exist. Only direct action by a broad movement can achieve that.