May 29, 2011

IconQueer activists close bank in NHS protest

LGBTQ collective Queer Resistance created a mock sexual health clinic during a protest outside of a London branch of HSBC yesterday. The event was part of a UK Uncut “Emergency Operation” opposing proposed changes to the NHS.

Activists dressed as doctors and nurses wielded lubricant, latex gloves and condoms. The bank closed its doors whilst the group provided street theatre and spoke with passers-by.

The protest was “blessed” by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an order of queer nuns dedicated to the promotion of “universal joy”, the “expiation of stigmatic guilt” and safe-sex practices.

Queer Resistance claim that NHS funding cuts and structural changes sponsored by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will result in reduced access to health education and specialist health services.

This will disproportionately impact lesbian and bisexual women, argued group member Wendyl Harris. “Women’s health is very poorly served at the best of times,” she said. “Lesbian and bisexual women tend to come even further down the rung [...] we’ve got a very poor amount of education out there.”

The group also highlighted the impact that cuts may have upon HIV services for gay and bisexual men, and specialist healthcare for trans people.

Similar demonstrations took place outside and within banks across the country yesterday. They were orchestrated by members of UK Uncut, the group responsible for occupying Fortnum and Mason and closing over a dozen shops on Oxford Street during anti-cuts protests in London on 26 March.

“David Cameron said he wasn’t going to cut the NHS. He lied,” said UK Uncut supporter Rosie Beech. “50,000 NHS staff will lose their jobs, whilst the taxpayer continues to subsidise the banks.”

Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s Executive Director of Financial Stability, stated in a recent speech that the government provides around £100 billion a year to banks in the form of free insurance and guarantees. This figure is close to the overall annual cost of the NHS.

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Ruth Pearce

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