Campaigner spits at mayor candidate Jon Rogers at protest
MAYORAL candidate Jon Rogers was spat at by a demonstrator when he attended a protest over cuts to benefits for disabled people.
A man campaigning on behalf of a rival candidate also threw his cigarette at the Liberal Democrat hopeful, who is the city council deputy leader, during the Hardest Hit protest organised by the Bristol Disability Equality Forum outside the Council House yesterday.
Dr Rogers said he was "appalled" at what happened and said he believed the actions constituted "assault".
He says he was invited to join the protesters on College Green and listen to their concerns by the chair of the Bristol Older People's Forum.
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The campaigner, Michael Wright, attempted to justify his actions by claiming Dr Rogers had "no place" at the march because of the council's planned closures of care homes.
The demonstration against central government changes to benefits for disabled people drew around 30 people and was otherwise peaceful.
But a breakaway group exchanged fiery comments with the Lib Dem and Mr Wright admitted spitting in front of Dr Rogers and throwing a lit cigarette at him.
The activist, who is campaigning for Trade Union and Socialist Coalition mayoral candidate Tom Baldwin, told The Post: "I don't think he has much of a place at a demonstration like this. He has closed operations for eight care homes in Bristol."
After Dr Rogers walked away from the fracas he said: "I have come down here to offer myself up to talk about disability issues, not to be abused in an appalling way. It's assault."
But Dr Rogers said he did not intend to take the matter further.
He added that current residents in four care homes being closed would have alternative accommodation.
Dr Rogers said: "Every single person in current care homes will be assessed and their needs will be identified. Nobody will be left behind."
Afterwards Mr Baldwin said: "I don't condone what Michael did but passions run high at events like this. Jon turned up when his council has cut a number of organisations and his party has cut in government. There were a lot of people there today who weren't pleased to see him."
Kaye Long, co-chairwoman of the forum organising the rally, focused on the government cuts which leave disabled people "hardest hit".
A report by the Children's Society and Disability Rights UK claims 230,000 severely disabled people are set to get between £28 and £58 less in benefits every week, while 100,000 children stand to lose up to £28 a week and up to 116,000 disabled people who work will be at risk of losing £40.
Ms Long said: "On a day-to-day basis the cuts will have a huge effect on people's basic human rights and living conditions. At least half a million disabled people will feel the negative effects."