‘Stand-off’ between disabled rights campaigners and staff at Northampton shopping centre

A photo taken by one of the DPAC members at the Weston Favell event. 8r7XnKG4fgKz_RRj1bUl
A photo taken by one of the DPAC members at the Weston Favell event. 8r7XnKG4fgKz_RRj1bUl

A campaign group aiming to halt cuts to disabled people in Northampton was made to stop handing out flyers at an event to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The United Nations recognised event took place on Saturday, December 3, with groups around the world hosting events to raise awareness about disability.

Northampton Borough Council invited groups to man stalls in the centre for the international day.

But the group Northampton Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were not given a table, despite applying for the event in October. Northampton Borough Council claims this was because the campaigners had not submitted paperwork.

A statement for the group, said its members “turned up to hand out their literature anyway,” but were asked to leave.

“We were informed we would be forcibly removed if we persisted, that pictures were not permitted and we were the harassed for nearly an hour by eight or more upholders of the law,” a statement from DPAC read.

“DPAC will continue its activity whether or not we infringe private business or establishment interests and would ask decent people to support out future activities.”

Witnesses have described how a “stand-off” ensued between the campaigners, security staff and police, until the event closed at 3pm.

Norman Adams, one of the campaigners, claimed: “We weren’t doing anything wrong, we were just there to hand out flyers and tell people what we do.”

The flyer being handed out expressed the group’s anger at Northampton Borough Council for not being allowed to participate in the event, but included contact numbers for anyone interested in DPAC’s work.

A spokeswoman for Weston Favell Shopping Centre said its “pre-planned incident response procedure” was activated At 14.15pm on Saturday after reports of an “incident.”

“Security officers informed the police of the incident and on site PCSOs intervened and dealt with the matter,” continued the spokeswoman.

“This is now a police matter and Weston Favell Shopping Centre cannot comment further.

“As ever, the management team and staff at Weston Favell shopping centre place the safety, security and comfort of all of our visitors as highly important.”

Councillor Anna King, cabinet member for community engagement and safety at the borough council, said: “To mark International Day of People with Disabilities, Northampton Borough Council coordinated an information event at Weston Favell Shopping Centre to help raise awareness of service providers in the area who support disabled people to live independent lives.

“When members of Northamptonshire Disabled People Against Cuts arrived at the event unexpectedly, other organisations taking part became concerned that they were obstructing the entrance to the information stands. Members of staff did ask the group to move but when they did not, the shopping centre’s security team was asked to help.

“Despite this, the event was well attended and we look forward to continuing our work with the Disabled Peoples’ Forum.”

“Northamptonshire Disabled People Against Cuts organisation were invited to participate in Saturday’s event but since this was a service awareness event and they are a political lobbying group, we did ask for them to submit their materials before the event. Communication from the group ceased following this request.”

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