April 12, 2011
Alternative inclusive demo against the cuts!
Largactyl Shuffle – a history walk about disabled people’s right
Saturday 26 March 2011, 12noon
From CoolTan Arts to the Imperial War Museum
CoolTan Arts and Disability Lib organised a Largactyl Shuffle against the cuts on 26 March 2011, an alternative inclusive demo for disabled and non disabled people to march together and make their voices heard against the cuts.
Michelle Baharier, a campaigner for disability equality and rights, against stigma and discrimination, and the infamous Ari Henry, local campaigner and co-founder of the People’s Republic of Southwark, were leading this alternative march and history walk about disabled people’s rights.
Around 15 people joined the walk, shared their stories and experiences, and discussed potential dangers coming from the spending cuts for people with disabilities and service provision. We had lively debates along the route from CoolTan Arts to the Imperial War Museum, and regular updates from the main demonstration. The walk was organised as an alternative to the big national rally ‘March for an Alternative to cuts’ by the TUC in response to the government’s programme of fast and deep public spending cuts.
CoolTan Arts, reg. charity nr. 1064231, exists to inspire the well-being and creative participation of a diverse range of people through the production of quality art.
CoolTan Arts runs a Largactyl Shuffle Walk every third Saturday of the month.
The Largactyl Shuffle is named after the oldest anti-psychotic drug chlorpromazine sold as Largactil in Europe
which has severe side effects.
Further information is available from: Kathrin Kirrmann, Communications Officer,
April 11, 2011
I attended the march as a working disabled journalist. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to talk to disabled people whose voices had so far not been heard in the media coverage of the fight against the government’s spending cuts, including in my own news stories.
In all, I spoke to more than 30 disabled people before and during the march and the rally. What soon struck me as I started to interview disabled protesters was the wide range of reasons they gave for being there. Some were on the march or at the rally because of cuts to services, some to protest against threats to vital disability benefits, others because of concerns over the government’s policies on inclusive education or the tone of the government’s rhetoric around benefits. Some spoke out about the government’s targeting of disabled people, while there was unsurprisingly a lot of fear and anger about the proposed removal of the mobility component of DLA from disabled people in residential homes.
I was struck by the feeling of solidarity among protesters, but also the passion and sense of outrage among those who took part. Individual disabled people had felt the need to travel across the country, despite the barriers they faced in getting there, to make their voices heard.
I hope these and other voices will now be heard even more loudly at the 11 May Hardest Hit march. As a reporter it is not for me to say whether their views are right or wrong, although it is probably not hard to guess what my views would be… What is most important to me is that these voices are being heard.
John Pring is the editor/founder of Disability News Service.
April 11, 2011
TUC protest: Disabled people send powerful messages to government
Disabled people who took part in the huge TUC protest march and rally in London have sent a series of powerful messages to the government about the impact of the cuts on their lives.
They told Disability News Service during Saturday’s event why they had joined the hundreds of thousands of other protesters who took part in the March for the Alternative.
Linda Burnip, a founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, which played a big role in supporting disabled people to take part, said:
“I am hoping to send a really powerful message to all politicians, including Ed Miliband [the Labour leader], that we are not going to be messed around with.”
Stuart Bracking, a member of the Unison union, said he was demonstrating to protect services and to protest about cuts to disability benefits.
“I have been on demonstrations over the last 20 years and the visibility of disabled people is much higher on this demonstration than it has been over the last 20 years.”
Doug Paulley, who lives in a residential home, said he believed disabled people were being “unfairly punished” for “something that wasn’t our fault”.
He said the proposal to stop paying the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) to people in residential care was “really sick”.
And he appealed to the government to “stop making up stuff about disabled people and tax the bankers, not the people who can afford it least”.
Deborah Sowerby said she felt as if she was “among friends” on the protest, and added:
“There has not been enough of this coming together. There are a lot of us and we are not going anywhere and that is why we are here today.”
Adrian Whyatt, from the London Autistic Rights Movement, said:
“We need to try and get them to see these cuts are not working.”
He said disabled people were being “targeted” by the government, and pointed to the mobility component decision, and problems with the notorious work capability assessment.
Sian Vasey, director of Ealing Centre for Independent Living, said she was worried about cuts to social services, and added:
“If they dismantle everything they are only going to have to rebuild it again.”
Marian O’Brien, coordinator of Ealing User Involvement Service, said her message to the government was to not privatise services.
“We want to keep our welfare state. The ‘big society’ will not happen because they are cutting back on funding. They are dismantling the welfare state bit by bit.”
Anne Pridmore, chair of Being the Boss, which supports disabled people who employ personal assistants, said she believed the cuts had put disabled people’s rights back 20 years, while the government’s reforms were about “trying to get big businesses rich”.
“I am so angry. In three years’ time it looks like I will end up in an old people’s home. Without support, people will not be able to get up in the morning. If disabled people have not got the support packages they will not be able to go to work anymore.”
Her colleague Jan Turner said:
“I am here because of the service cuts, because of all of the money they are spending on the census and the Afghan war and the Gaddafi war and all the tax evasion.
“I think they are doing unnecessary cuts to people who are vulnerable. I am doing it for other people who can’t protest.”
Sheila Blair, also from Being the Boss, said:
“I volunteer with a lot of organisations. What I don’t want is for a lot of organisations like the ones I volunteer for to get to a position where they have no staff and everything is done by volunteers in the name of the ‘big society’, which is a lot of shit. I just get very angry about it all.”
Frank Lerner, a retired head teacher, said:
“Everything I have ever worked for in my life is being destroyed. I just think that this government is out to destroy the infrastructure of our society for their own easy ends.
“The cuts are nothing to do with what is needed, they are to do with what they want to achieve. It is dogma rather than necessity.”
Raymond Johnson, from People First (Self Advocacy), said he believed the banks should be forced to make cuts rather than disabled people.
“Obviously there are lots of people here against the stupid cutbacks. Saying ‘we are all in this together’, I don’t think so. There are a hell of a lot of people here.”
Sandy Marks said she was protesting “because I can and because when they have finished with us I will not be able to”.
Sarah Fisher, from Knutsford, Cheshire, said:
“The banks got us into this mess but it is the ones who are least able to cope with cuts who are going to be paying for it. There is no fairness in what is happening.”
“I am hoping that this will help. I think if nothing else it will give a wake-up call to the government in that not everybody is behind this ‘we are all in this together’.”
Lisa Egan, co-founder of the Where’s the Benefit? blog, said she was there
“to protest against the cuts, because I need the welfare state and the NHS in order not to die”.
Louise Hickman, from Hackney, said she had joined the protest because of the “vulnerability of support for disabled people in further education”.
Olcay Lee said: “We are here to stop the cuts if we can.”
Her husband, Andrew, director of People First (Self Advocacy), said:
“Disabled people didn’t actively put us in this mess.
“We are very concerned that cutting services for disabled people, there is no logic to where the cuts are actually being made.
“Yes, we need to get the country into a better shape but disabled people need the right support. Without the right support there will be more money [needed] to clear up the mess.”
Andrew Hart said he was at the protest as a disabled trade union member, the trustee of a voluntary organisation that was suffering from the cuts, and the father of a son with autism, who was facing the loss of education maintenance allowance (EMA) as he prepared to start sixth form college.
Riven Vincent, from Bristol, the disabled mother who caused a media storm after saying she had asked her council to take her disabled child into care because of a lack of respite, called on the government to rethink its DLA reforms, and its plans to remove the mobility component from those in residential care.
“I am marching because of the cuts that will affect disabled people, including my daughter Celyn (Williams).
“I have met David Cameron and he promised none of his cuts would affect disabled people and he has lied.”
Dean Thomas, from Nottingham, said he was on the march “because I can be here. For other people who can’t be here. The cutbacks are focused on the most vulnerable people in society. They are completely wrong.”
John, who asked not to give his surname, said he had joined the march because services were under threat.
He was scornful of David Cameron’s “big society”, and said:
“The expectation that there will be all these volunteers to do the jobs is a bit false. There are already volunteers in society. How many more are there going to be?”
Margie Hill, from Knowsley, Merseyside, a member of the Unison union who works in local government, said she believed the government wanted to target disabled people, and was going to “try to pick them off, get rid of them” and “scupper our benefits”, while any new jobs would go to non-disabled people.
Catherine Callaghan, also from Knowsley, has been made redundant from her job with Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership, which she said had cut more than 40 per cent of its workforce.
She had worked there with disabled young people, and said the loss of EMA meant young people would be “dropping out in their droves from education, hanging round the streets and there will not be people like us to interact with them to get them back on track”.
Jonathan Bartley, who is not disabled but cornered David Cameron in front of TV cameras before last year’s general election about his battle to secure a mainstream school place for his disabled son, Samuel, said his wife had lost her job at Sure Start.
“Clearly it is affecting our family, our whole community, and it is very important that the government understands that this is not what the country voted for.
“What seems to be happening is the poorest and the most vulnerable are paying the price for the financial crisis they didn’t get us into.”
John Pring is the editor/founder of Disability News Service.
April 7, 2011
I arrived at the Embankment tube station at 10.40am and joined the Unison group. I felt totally exhilarated as I saw all those people at the station, who have come together to support each other and to say no to the appalling cuts, which continues to have a detrimental effect on all sections of the community.
The march from my end was peaceful and continuous. We sang as we marched and talked about why we were at the march.
Our campaign was about bringing about change in policies and for the ConDem coalition to stop the cuts and listen to the people.
I also met up with a friend during the march, David Rosenberg who was there campaigning with the teachers union. We all joined up together. I needed up in his group as well.
Although I felt tired at times, I was determined to stay on the march for a while. At about 4.30pm, as we came down to Trafalgar Square, David had to leave the march and go and meet up with a friend and I decide to go home because, I was in a lot of pain, backache and I was also told that by the time we reached Marble Arch the speeches would have been finished by then.
Although I did not get to meet up with my colleagues from DPAC, I was there to show my support and to show that we are not going to be voiceless.
I would like to end here by saying that, as I a disabled Pan African woman I hope that we can continue to ensure that our campaign continues and we tell the ConDem coalition that we are here to stay to ensure that our needs are met. The civil rights movement was about change and the struggles of that change is still ongoing today. I hope that we can engage in similar struggles to bring about change.
As Liz Carr tells us that we must not allow ourselves to be divided. We must continue to ensure that we are heard, because we are a section of the community which is deemed as voiceless. Let’s continue the struggle and bring about effective change.
April 2, 2011
Trafalgar Square Kettle. My personal account from the inside.
At the end of a long day on the TUC march and a well earned couple of pints of Guinness in the pub with my brother I decided to head off home. On the way to the station there were the signs of various amounts of damage to buildings such as Santander, Porsche and The Ritz.
Walking past Trafalgar Square I noticed there was a large number of people in the Square itself. When I entered the Square it was almost as if Glastonbury had paid a visit and had a carnival type atmosphere. Relaxed, peaceful with people listening and dancing to music or sitting around one or two small fires that had been lit. These people didn’t look at all like they had spent the day giving the police the runaround. They weren’t dressed head to foot in black and very few had their faces covered. There were a few police around in twos and threes and were not wearing riot gear. There was also what looked like security people behind barriers around the fountains.
It was against this backdrop that events turned decidedly unpeaceful. There was a disturbance around the area of the Olympic clock. I couldn’t see what was happening and I was told that someone had tried to attack the clock and was arrested. It was after the arrest that several lines of police in riot gear swarmed in down the steps opposite the National Gallery and into the Square next to the Olympic clock and started to lash out. There then followed a certain amount of sporadic outbursts of violence from the police. A flare went off behind police lines although I didn’t see from which direction this came. After a period of relative calm I took some photos and then the police started to get aggressive once more which promoted a barrier to be thrown towards the police lines. It was then that I had to get clear but took a minor whack to my head with a shield for not being quicker at getting out of the way. It was at this stage that the kettle had been formed and no one was allowed to leave. Commendably but naively, one or two groups of people decided to sit down and try to reason with the police.
Oddly, at this stage, there were fireworks zooming up into the air like some sort of November 5th display from the fountain area which was outside the kettle. There was no malicious intent as the fireworks were not directed at the Police.
The police then forced everyone back towards the Nelson Column plinth. From there people were either at the base or on the plinth. There was an empty area between the people and the front police line. A bottle was thrown into this area which fell well short of police lines which suggested it was thrown out of frustration rather than harmful intent.
The previous day the Police said they would let those who have not been causing trouble to leave and would provide water to those who were contained. Needless to say neither of these happened. If they did allow non-violent people to leave then that would discredit the Met Police assertions that the police came under attack by criminals because so few, if any, would actually still be contained and certainly not the 200 or so who were. There was also no access to toilet facilities as the toilet facilities in the Square were outside the kettled area.
Moreover the Met Police website stated:
‘Containment will be very much a tactic of last resort. If it does become necessary, again we have responded to feedback, and now have a dedicated Chief Inspector to ensure the swift dispersal of innocent and vulnerable people and to ensure the needs of those contained are considered.’
I didn’t see a Chief Inspector and obviously the needs of those contained were not considered.
So just to clarify, in a two hour period the only violence I saw from people inside the Square was one flare, one barrier and one bottle thrown. Apart from violent disorder from the police around the clock the only other violence that did occur happened after provocation from the police and after the kettle had been formed. I was lucky enough to get out of the kettle with the help of someone who had a press pass and I heard from a later news report that the kettling continued until 2.45am.
There maybe some that might be skeptical about my account of the events of that night and to those I would say this: the Police were filming what happened on the ground and in the air. There was also television coverage and yet the only violent evidence I saw from that coverage was a barrier being thrown. I very much doubt if anyone else saw coverage of anything else that would even remotely constitute an attack by so called criminals that would warrant such a large containment. The reality is that such an allegation by the Met Police is totally absurd.