Merry Cross’s account
March 31, 2011
This was a MAGNIFICENT demonstration of the fury most people feel, whatever their background, at being impoverished by a government of millionaires. My daughter and I were proud and happy to be there, amongst as it turned out, between 250 and 500,000 others.
I came across the Disabled People against the Cuts (DPAC) section of the march, via the website of the Coalition of Resistance. I haven’t been able to be very active in the disability movement for many years now and for a number of reasons. One of these has certainly been my deteriorating physical condition. Nevertheless, I have been so outraged by the decisions of the government, that I was absolutely determined to go on the march organised by the TUC. Additionally, my daughters are now nearly 18 and one of them was free and eager to come on the march and push my wheelchair.
I have to say a little more about my outrage, though. I remember a cartoon postcard I used to have up in my study, which said “To make the rich work harder we pay them more: to make the poor work harder we pay them less”. The millionaires’ (government’s) decisions to make everybody – except the people responsible for the economic mess – much, much poorer, disgusts me more than I can say. Combine that with being able to find enough money to wage wars halfway round the world and I find my blood boiling.
I, like many others, have found that supports that I’ve depended on have been gradually eroded over the years (and sadly not just by this government). A social worker said to me recently that when she first started out, there were eight different categories under which help and support could be given to disabled people. Now there’s one. And we all know that this one is going to shrink even further, as the powers that be define our need almost out of existence. Equally we know that this in turn is going to create even greater need and many tragedies in our community. I meant to make a placard for the march which would read “This government targets help to the most vulnerable”.
Anyway back to the march. We had to travel by train to Waterloo and then get a taxi to the meeting point. I managed to get a permit from the TUC which would allow a taxi to drop me close to where the DPAC meeting point was. My anxiety about not being able to get through the traffic to be there on time meant that we arrived pretty early, before many other disabled people had managed to make it, but that allowed us to get into the mood.
There was already a very festive atmosphere. The stewards were in place (as were the accessible toilets, thank goodness) and my daughter ran around finding placards to attach to the wheelchair. It was a shame that the lovely sunny weather decided that day to disappear behind a blanket of cloud, with a chill wind to keep me from really relaxing, but I was determined to enjoy myself and I did. From her more elevated position my daughter was great at spotting witty placards — and there were many — and drawing my attention to them.
From the very beginning the noise was phenomenal, the usual shriek of whistles rather overwhelmed by the blast of vuvuzelas. I knew my tinnitus would go mad (and it has) but I had to say to myself “so what?”The huge down side didn’t occur to me, until I met up with an old friend of 17 years ago, who is blind. The racket these vuvuzelas made was virtually wiping out the sense on which she most depended and she was horribly stressed. But of course she soldiered on.
It seems a funny thing to say, but it is testament to the size of this demonstration, that actually I saw few of the disabled people from my past. The fact is that there were many of us, but we were thoroughly integrated into the mass of humanity there, even if DPAC had hoped that we would be en bloc. This was for 2 good reasons. One was because so many people had the confidence to join the march wherever they happened to arrive, and the other was that those of us who did start out together soon found that the tide of ‘walkie-talkies’ (as one young friend of mine used to call people who could walk and speak without difficulty) swept in and around us.
Both my daughter and I loved that anybody and everybody talked to us in perfectly natural ways. One man explained that he was retired and fairly comfortably off, but he felt he had to join in (which involved travelling from Chesterfield) because, as he put it, “What is happening is just wrong”. The speakers we heard in Hyde Park, before my back was really too tired to stay any longer, hit all the right notes. We left around 2:30 and were delighted to see people still pouring in.
One last point: whatever your views on the anarchists who used the occasion for violence and destruction, it has incensed me that the BBC’s constant concern seems only to have been about the police not having been able to prevent it. Even the guy in charge of the police operation had to rein the interviewer in and say they couldn’t do more unless we want a police state. And we don’t!