. I take the reports seriously because the people involved are friends of friends, so it's harder for me to just dismiss the stories as internet rumour-mongering. I realize that this personal connection is going to become less and less convincing as the story travels further outwards. I'm also aware that some people assume that any groups acting on behalf of authority, such as the police, always have right on their side; as this is being discussed among my circle, I'm already saying speculation that there's probably a good reason, maybe the activists in question have been sending death threats to people working for Atos or job centres. There often is more than one side to stories like this, and I'm not going to attempt to convince you if you're inclined to skeptical.
For me, I believe the reports. I believe them enough to be quite seriously scared. It's possible, yes, that these people have actually done something criminal which isn't known to my friends. So it's not absolutely clear that they've been hassled simply for criticizing government policy, though that looks like the most likely explanation. But even if they have broken the law, that doesn't offer me any comforting explanation for what looks like deliberate intimidation. The fact that it's apparently coordinated with all the incidents taking place on the same day. The police turning up to activists' houses in large numbers or in the middle of the night, that's what really scares me.
Thing is, I believe strongly that people whose disabilities prevent them from working, or who can't find employers willing to take them on, have the right to food, shelter and security just as much as employed people. I believe that working disabled people should be provided with reasonable subsidies to cover the extra costs associated with being disabled, whether that's having to pay for taxis because our public transport system isn't fit for purpose, or for extra equipment needed to do their jobs, or to pay for assistants or carers if needed. I believe that these benefits should not be made subject to punitive, degrading "assessments" of whether the recipients are really disabled.
If I ask myself whether I'm willing to go to prison for these beliefs, I have to come up with the answer that I'm not. I am basically a coward, and I like my nice comfortable life. So if this trend continues, of people being subjected to deliberate intimidation by the police simply for believing what I believe, I am very likely to end up in a situation where I collaborate with the authorities against disabled people and their supporters. If you ever see me posting online that disabled people are work-shy scroungers whose culture of entitlement is taking away resources from hard-working families, please assume by default that I'm posting under duress.
In any case, regimes that think the solution to disability is stigmatizing and intimidation, with violence not far off, are not often particularly good environments for Jewish people or gay people or people who have fairly transparent online lives which include sometimes criticizing government policies. So I am back to thinking seriously that I need to get out of this country before I am made a collaborator or a victim. I may well be overreacting, and I know that many of you live in countries where civil liberties are already more seriously compromised than what I see here. But. Police showing up in the middle of the night and confiscating phones and computers from dissidents, that's the kind of thing you regret ignoring.