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Solidarity with Tony Cox! Actions across UK on 12th and 13th October

Update: the charge of ‘threatening behaviour against Tony has been dropped! But he’ll be back in court on 18th November to face charges of resisting arrest (via ECAP).

Yesterday, 12th October, Boycott Workfare took part in a national day of action in solidarity with Tony Cox, who was arrested at Arbroath Job Centre on 29th January this year while representing an unemployed woman. Tony is a welfare rights officer and a  member of the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network. He was taken into custody and charged with threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest.

Boycott Workfare in London joined with Haringey Solidarity Group and welfare action groups in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Doncaster, Cardiff and Nottingham outside job centres talking to claimants about avoiding sanctions, workfare, and the right to be accompanied to interviews at the job centre and DWP offices.

Groups like the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network (SUWN), and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP) have insisted on and successfully defended the right to be accompanied and for the accompanier to speak. You can watch a video about ECAP’s recent actions here, as well as reading about them, and print off a leaflet about being accompanied here. As ECAP write, (here):

have forced the DWP locally and Britain-wide to apologise for calling the police on ECAP reps, and to affirm claimants right to representation.  The DWP clearly state “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf…”

Tony was in court for the initial hearing on the 25th of February, a day which was marked by solidarity demonstrations across the UK. (And you can read the SUWN take on what happened at the court here.) He will be in Forfar Sheriff court again today, 13th October. People involved in welfare action groups from across Scotland will be outside the court protesting Tony’s arrest.

We believe that this case highlights the climate of fear that is evident within many Job Centres, but that it is not only benefit claimants that are treated with contempt. Welfare advisors are also being subjected to bullying and intimidation, as in the recent case of Mike Vallance at High Riggs Job Centre, when they attempt to represent, often highly vulnerable, benefit claimants. The SUWN will resist any and all attempts to curb the rights of welfare and citizen advocates to represent the unemployed, and we ask you to join us in our fight to ensure that ADVOCACY IS NOT A CRIME.

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