In Bolivia, Handicapped Protesters Take on Riot Police
February 28, 2012, 11:44 PM
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In a bizarre story from Bolivia in South America, handicapped protesters, some in wheelchairs, battled with riot police.
From the Guardian`s Disabled Protesters Clash with Police in Bolivia (Rory Carroll, Feb. 24th, 2012):

Scores of disabled people on crutches and in wheelchairs fought police in La Paz, Bolivia`s capital, over demands for better welfare support, injuring several and fuelling anger against the state.

A caravan of about 50 adults and children ended a 1,000-mile, 100-day trek through Bolivia at the protest near government offices in La Paz on Thursday. Scuffles broke out and pepper spray was used after the group were blocked by riot police, who stopped them reaching the legislature and presidential palace to petitioning MPs and the presidential palace for a tripling of the £91 monthly state subsidy for disabled people. The protesters tried to break through the lines using their crutches and wheelchairs but were forced back in a melee in which several people were injured and four detained. The protest organisers then declared a hunger strike by 10 adults and a round-the-clock vigil by the rest.

The clashes were another public relations PR fiasco for President Evo Morales, who has seen his once-huge popularity plunge amid protests from coca farmers, indigenous rights activists and environmentalists...

The disabled protesters relied on charity on their journey to the highland capital from Beni, bordering Brazil, in November. As well as higher subsidies, they want greater efforts to integrate them into a society that makes little provision for those with physical or mental disabilities.

Domitila Franco, a wheelchair-user, said she struggled. "It`s very hard to be a person with a disability," she said. "Even our own husbands abandon us because they feel ashamed of us. … I look after my four children alone, washing and ironing clothes for people."

Here`s a video. Here are photos.