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.
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!
March 30, 2011
The weekend of the TUC march I stayed with my friend Marisha who I met a couple of years ago when we occupied a social services office in Birmingham with other DANners. Seeing her again was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. We were also able to celebrate the sad demise of the charity that had been supposed to support her to live independently, the one some of you may know said the reason that her flat was damp was due to her breathing in it.
She was very disappointed not to be able to join the march as she has a broken leg but helped with the work for the virtual protest we had as well.
On the morning of the march I met some other DPAC supporters and a photographer who had arranged to spend the day following me around and we went to Savoy Street with our DPAC banner and some placards that we gave out to others. It was good to join up with people from other disability campaigns and to see people I hadn’t seen for ages.
We were then shepherded away by a steward with about 20-30 wheelchair users all trying to push our way through a large crowd of people to move to the front of the march.
When we did eventually arrive at the front of the march another steward tried to stop Mikael and I joining the disabled people’s section as we didn’t ‘look’ disabled. As I was wearing my DPAC teeshirt this seemed a bit peculiar but….However we did join them together with Jan and Sedley who had our banner and also don’t ‘look’ disabled either.
All went well for a while until we were suddenly swamped by people from UNISON who started to overtake us and then in Downing Street where we had to move into a much narrower column of people I lost almost everyone I was with, including the photographer, plus the banner.
We had arranged, or so I thought, for people from London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP) to march with us and provide support if anyone needed it during the march but that didn’t work out either as not ‘looking’ disabled they weren’t allowed into Savoy Street to meet up with us.
Anyhow Mikael and I continued on the march and met up with Terri from Manchester for a while. It was good to see her again too.
We eventually arrived at Hyde Park but had no idea where the static protest or the space set aside for disabled people was. There were no signs and no stewards to ask, however I eventually got a text from Eleanor and we headed towards where she was.
On the way we gave out lots of leaflets about DPAC to anyone who ‘looked’ even vaguely impaired. It would have been good to be able to identify those with invisible impairments too but obviously even for us that’s difficult.
I was very disappointed with Ed Milliband’s speech which didn’t even mention disabled people. Perhaps since it was his party, the Labour party, which began many of the attacks against disabled people he wanted to avoid the issues.
Around 3 pm I headed back to the centre to find some cheaper food than that on offer at Hyde Park and afterwards went to Trafalgar Square. This started to fill up about 5.30ish and I met women I knew from Winvisible and Single Mothers Self-Defence who were there with lots of other women from Global Women Strike.
As I’d lost all my placards by then I borrowed one from them which read “ Tahrir Square, WC2, City of Westminster” It seemed hugely popular and Christine and I who had the same placard were being photographed every few minutes by people passing by.
Everyone in Trafalgar Square was having a peaceful good time and enjoying themselves at that stage of the evening. There was drumming and dancing, some speeches and students and younger people sitting around Nelson’s column singing and chanting. Us women did some chanting too my favourite being “Cuts Kill, Kill the Cuts, Eton Scum here we cum”
A little later someone used their loud speaker system to announce that the media had been sent away and legal observers arrested and 800 people kettled in Picadilly Circus. The police were also lining up at that time to kettle Trafalgar Square and we saw a number of young people being stopped and searched for no apparent reason. After distributing some bust cards to some young people who didn’t have one we decided to leave as were cold (read freezing for that) and tired by then and didn’t want to be kettled for hours.
By the time I arrived back at Marisha’s there seemed to be a full-scale battle going on in Trafalgar Square so I’m glad we left when we did.
Do I think the day was worthwhile? Short of half a million people rushing into the House of Commons and taking it over I’m not sure the government care much about our views and dissent, but it was a great feeling to see so many disabled and non-disabled people united and fighting for their futures against the cuts.
For me it is very, very important that it is us who put forward our views “ Nothing about us without us” and that we campaign for ourselves as disabled people with both visible and invisible impairments. It is important that we throw off the paternalism of being spoken for by the disability charities and work with other disabled people in unions and DPOs to organise for ourselves.
So the fight we started at the Tory Party Conference continued on March 26th but for us I don’t think it will end with the downfall of the coalition government it is the system that exploits us all that must change.
( pictures of the day by Mikael Barnard)