Disabled People at the Coalition of Resistance conference

November 29, 2010

There were a lot of people ( reported to be at least 1,000)  at the conference at the Camden Centre – many of them spotting the Coalition of Resistance tee shirts. The main hall when I arrived was overfull and spilled over to the next room. In fact some of the conference were held at the school next door.

I was disappointed and slightly cross that the workshop that I had wanted to attend were up stairs in the school without a lift. And then the other workshop I could have gone to was overfull and chock a block.

I am mentioning this because if disabled people are to be included, the organisers should have taken this into consideration when they chose the venue. I voiced this to one of the stewards and she was most apologetic and said it was because they had not anticipated the huge turnout which necessitated them to use the school premises. Someone further along then mentioned the fact that the venue had cost £5000 and people were charged just to recover the costs of hiring it. I nearly snapped that surely the point we were protesting about the cuts is because the ConDems are saying we couldn’t afford the expense of our services…..is the COR using the same excuse (of budget) for excluding us?????

I did however leave my contact details and told them that they should consult us about the next venue so that access issues are considered ( I wonder what they will say if I suggest BSL interpreters as well!?)

I piped up at the Equality workshop chaired by Zita Holbourne (in place of Linda Burnip, who did not manage to get there ) and spoke about the place of disabled people voices to be heard and that we too are protesting. That we lead the demonstration at the 3rd Oct protest. However our voices in protest are not always picked up by the press and we were not allowed to be part of the protest (read previous blog ) because we are disabled and seen to be ‘vulnerable’.  And we have to point out that disabled people are not in the streets to protest in droves like the students because of various barriers – not least because of the genuine fear that it might be seen that if a disabled person is well enough to protest, they are well enough to work. (And this is a point that Lee Jasper (BARAC) used in his speech at the ending plenary, although he embellished it a bit). I also told them how the cuts are affecting disabled people that some have committed suicide and some are subjected to degrading services as the woman who had to use incontinence pads even though she was not incontinent. I told them about DPAC and a list was sent around to collect emails of people who wanted to be kept in touch.

I think the main impression that everyone took away from this dynamic conference that we have to get our act together and that we support each other, that unity in all so that we give a unified voice.

Speakers included Tony Benn (elected President of COR), Ken Loach, union leaders Mark Serwotka, Len McCluskey and Bob Crow, Green MEP Jean Lambert, and Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. The People’s Charter and Right to Work were represented in the huge plenary sessions, also addressed by a French trade union representative.  There were speeches from student and school student activists, anti-war campaigners, pensioners’ representatives and black community leaders.

Please notice that though many speakers mentioned disabled people and spoke for us there were none of us included in the main speakers. We need to speak for ourselves – and I am asking where are our leaders in the disabled community, why are we not hearing their voices? What can we do to get those disabled people who can – get into action?

How can we DPAC make disabled people voices more voluble and turn up the volume about the cuts – we are the ones who are most affected by the cuts, are we not?

Eleanor Lisney

You can watch some of the excellent speeches at the Counterfire website.

Photos from the conference can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157625355252455/

COR conference

A spot of calm

6 Responses to “Disabled People at the Coalition of Resistance conference”

  1. Elly Badcock Says:

    Hey Eleanor,

    Good to meet you at the conference yesterday! Sorry to hear you had problems with accessibility – definitely keep in touch with CoR in future to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I thought the States of Inequality workshop was inspiring, seeing representatives from different liberation groups together discussing the cuts, and coming together in a conference to resist them. I hope some of the proposals from the workshop get taken forward – a few other people I’ve spoken to have raised having caucases within CoR for disabled people, women, LGBT and black people. What do you reckon?

    Keep in touch!

    Elly xx

  2. eleanor Says:

    Hey Elly

    Good to have met you too. Its not just me who had problems but others too so we need to make sure CoR is inclusive.
    I didnt write about the proposal that we had from the workshop – I couldnt remember it in its entirety – did you take notes?
    It was a good proposal about using human rights – the framework of human rights.
    Be great if that gets taken forward. I am raising the question of caucases with DPAC members and see what the consensus is and we will see……definitely keep in touch. The counterfire videos have been great!!!

  3. maz Says:

    great, really grateful that you went on my and others behalf who couldn’t make it, we need folk like you out there…. now….. ive been one of them animal rights campaigners for nearly twenty-five years now involved in some way with most of the big actions in the last twenty years etc so used to doing this sort of stuff ( been arrested 33 times but still got a clean record )lols
    but now that i’m a raging crip :O) i can’t do what i used to do… but.. i know LOADS of tactics, ive taught “DIRECT ACTION AND THE POLICE” ive spoken at party conferences and at crowds of over a thousand folk so i’m here lass if needed lol maz thegob

  4. […] of stairs up to the workshops I had chosen to attend, but then I’m not in a wheel chair. DPAC have an excellent blog post on the conference from the point of view of disabled, the author makes […]

  5. Jan Pollock Says:

    I went to the same workshop as Eleanor, who made a clear and sharp speech (when,at last, she was given the floor to speak). But even the States ofInequality wkshop had had to be moved at lunchtime to ensure it had an accessible venue!
    I went to a workshop in the morning and mentioned the Cmpaign Agst Tube Privatisation as an example of a service-users’ group which works with the RMT and TSSA unions (I wasnt the only one to talk of trades unions’need to cooperate with public service-users in order to effectivelyfight the cuts) I also mentioned Disabled People Agst The Cuts on the grounds that discriminated-against groups were already organising themselves.
    But a quick glance at the conf agenda and the detailed statements of Conference Declaration, Structure of COR , Founding Statement, What Is COR and What Does It Do? might have suggesdted to a suspiscious activist that almost everything had been decided before we arrived.
    All the left-wing grps seem to be shouting about left-unity (which their own group’s front conf will lead!) without any room for such groups to learn how to develop a strategy that can actually be inclusive and effective enough to defeat the Government’s massive attack on the welfare state. We have a long, hard struggle ahead so need to think out an effective strategy.
    In my own union, once Disabled Mbrs’ and LGBT Mbrs’ Cttees supported Black Mbrs’ policy, we suddenly discovered all discriminated groups could work together very effectively! To build for an effective movement against the cuts and the discrimination we face, we need to do this at a very local, not merely national, level. This could ensure an enormous turn-out for the TUC’s 26th March demonstration.
    Sorry to go on at such length; there is so much to say! What are YOUR ideas on what we need to do?

  6. LInda Burnip Says:

    We’re looking at linking up with other groups too, lots of other disability ones plus things like Women against the Cuts, BARAC, and so on. It’s difficult to remember that we have ben in existence only about 2 months as we have I think ( biased of course) already done such a lot of networking etc. Have to say any concept of left unity seems a fragile one at best.

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