A day in the life..of an armchair protestor

(republished with kind permission)

Steven Sumpter

Steven Sumpter

I am exhausted. I’m so tired that I can’t get out of bed right now. This is because I spent yesterday supporting the March For The Alternative and UK Uncut in any way I could from home.

My living room became a media hub. Along with my sister (@apricotmuffins on twitter) I watched multiple TV news sources, twitter, blogs, emails and news websites. To do the job we had four computers, six screens (including the 32″ TV) and phones, laptops etc. Both of us had Tweetdeck running with six columns of tweets and hashtag searches.

Late on Friday I was drafted in to help out with the virtual protest map from Disabled People Against Cuts. This is a map of many people that could not protest because of illness or disability. After a chat on Skype with the organiser I got to work adding emails of support to the map, eventually getting to sleep after 3am.

Saturday morning, I had promised to spend an hour with my wife over breakfast. I stuffed myself full of painkillers around 9am, and drank coffee. I sent my wife to take coffee to my sister (who lives next door) and wake her up ready for our day of virtual protesting.

A quick check of twitter showed that my automated scheduled tweets about the protest map were being retweeted at a good pace, drawing attention to it. I replied to a couple of tweets to clear up some confusion that my scheduled tweets had caused – people had assumed that I was awake!

Then at 10am I staggered out to the Lantern eating house for breakfast with my wife. To resist temptation, I handed my phone ever to her to keep it away from me! We enjoyed a nice breakfast and I managed to talk about things other than the protest.

Back in the house at 11, my sister and I set up for our protesting. She moved her computer into my house while I frantically tried to fit an extra hard disk into my PC to handle all the TV recording that I would be doing. Unfortunately my new gigantic heatsink was making this difficult! Finally at a little past 11 we were up and running. I sat at my desk with my PC, my old iMac on a table behind me. I set my PC to recording Sky News, and my iMac recording BBC news. My sister was watching on the main TV, switching between channels as they showed anything relevant.

Our biggest task of the day turned out to be keeping the DPAC map up to date. Logging in to the email account showed 54 messages waiting to go online, with more pouring in. I set my sister up with the email and map and showed her how to add people, and we attacked that task. I did the ones with pictures myself as it was a little more involved. Some where frustrating, since they didn’t include their location which made it difficult to add them to a map! Others had misunderstood and sent us long messages, promotions for events and other things which were not suitable for our map of solidarity.

All the while we were carrying out this task we were also watching twitter and the TV for updates about the march. Any time an interesting comment, update or insight came up on twitter I retweeted it to my followers. When the TV showed us anything interesting I reported that on twitter as well. As the day developed, I started to grab screenshots from the TV news and put them up on twitter. Although I was recording everything, the only clip that I managed to get online was a part of Ed Millibands speech. I’ve got hours of footage that I hope to publish a bit more of later.

This whole process was very intensive. I have to admit it was very difficult for anyone else to speak with me since I was completely immersed in what I was doing. Our atmosphere, much like the march, was one of excitement. Unfortunately this was all very draining for me. I eventually had to stop for a rest, in spite of the constant supply of caffeine and codeine. My first rest was 10 minutes on the sofa but still watching the TV. It wasn’t really a rest for me, but it was enough to keep me going a bit longer. My second rest was rather forced on me since I had completely run out of my ability to stand or walk, was scrambling up bits of what I was writing, and forgetting what I was doing. Lots of drugs, tea, and half an hour flat on my back in pain, and then I forced myself back to the computer for the final stint.

For the final part of the day we were retweeting as much of UK Uncut as we could, although there wasn’t a lot available. I put together a blog post with some text and a lot of screenshots from the TV news. I wanted to produce a report on UK Uncut but I just didn’t have enough information, and the photo sharing site that they were using seemd to have crashed under the load.

Finally, I was just too tired to continue. I stayed at my computer a little longer, watching twitter but mostly zoning out. I eventually went to my bed around 8pm, and spent a lot of the evening drifting in and out of consciousness.

This was my day of protest. I can only hope it made a difference somewhere.

protest poster

Transport to the March can be found here.

We will keep you posted on access for disabled people when we have the information.

This is the video of the Workshop at the People’s Convention on Saturday 12th February at the Friend’s House in London.

With many, many thanks to Jon Cheetham of Bellerose Films.

Organised by Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), Right to Work, Labour Representation Committee

Over 800 people came together on Saturday 12th in London to talk about the cuts and the way forward for the TUC march on the 26th March. Disabled people were there and the stage sported a big DPAC banner in the middle. The day was videoed and the DPAC workshop was also videoed. The report of the day overall will be elsewhere. Here we look at the great turnout by disabled people and celebrate the central place we had in this day.

Morning

The morning open floor brought great comments from some disabled participants, including, Richard Rieser, Adrian Whyatt and Sasha Callaghan on the effect of the cuts for disabled people, including the human rights abuses and the closure of poverty pimps ATOS offices across Scotland on the national day of protest against cuts.

DPAC Workshop

The DPAC workshop was held in the afternoon. It was great to see so many people at this with 50 or 60 people, some attendees from as far as Scotland. Speakers on the panel were Richard Rieser, Debbie Jolly, Sue Bott and Kevin Caulfield. The workshop was chaired by Eleanor Lisney. There were many comments and questions at the workshop, these included:

We are being sent back to Victorian times: we should all be involved in local anti-cuts groups, emulate DAN protests, disabled people need to be at front of things and be united

We are incensed by the coverage in newspapers against disabled people

Need to make sure we include Deaf people and those with invisible disabilities, but not impairment based- we cannot go back to arguing about impairments- we must all fight together, must be inclusive

Mental health resistance network couldn’t all get to London today but want to support and be included: facing difficult times being given ‘talking treatment’ but they (the government) concentrate on getting us ‘well’, but they just want to get us into work

Participant remembers Richard speaking at European Social Forum; there are many more people here and comments that Sasha did a brilliant job when speaking this morning about ATOS

We need to come together and find common ground, not just disabled people but across the board. We all need to fully support the campaign and get the trade unions behind this too

There are not many disabled millionaires and certainly none at the convention. This is an attack on working class people. We need to get joint campaigns with all anti-cuts campaigns. Disabled people need to link up, need to unite: Every single local group should make contacts with disability groups in the area

We need to stop people from the Charity sector taking over: Rights not Charity

Issues were raised with the dropping off of people from buses at Wembly for the 26th March TUC London march. Right to Work have sent a statement to Brendan Barber not to drop in Wembley because of access issues and cost of getting to central London for the march. Disabled people need to email too.

John McArdle of Black triangle reminded us of the story of Paul Reekie.

It was noted that sometimes people aren’t getting messages re demos and protests, but also that the police always seem to know where we are going to be.

It was suggested that a boycott of newspapers following the government line and producing rhetoric on disabled people as scroungers are boycotted including the Scottish Mail, Daily Mail and others.

A video of the workshop will be available soon

Afternoon

The afternoon was made up of invited speakers, feedback from the workshops and debate. The highlight of the afternoon was Liz Carr’s speech which received a standing ovation from the audience.


A full list of actions proposed by Disabled People against Cuts and accepted by the Peoples’ Convention

    The protest on 26th March needs to be fully accessible with disabled people involved in the planning. There needs to be representation of disabled people with and without visible impairments on the platform.
    We propose a day of national demonstrations against ATOS.
    We propose a month of action over the month of July to coincide with the second anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention.
    We propose that every local anti-cuts movement has an autonomous disabled people’s sub group. 

    We propose support for UKDPC’s day of disabled people’s protest proposed for 11th May.(to be confirmed)

We propose that we speak to our colleagues at Unison about how the cuts are being implemented.

Debbie Jolly

This information from Friends Meeting House web site:

Café
The Quaker Centre Café serves a selection of Fairtrade teas and coffee,
hot chocolate, soft drinks, fresh fruit, sandwiches, boxed salads and cold snacks of which many are organic. There is a selection of healthy
breakfast items until 10.30am and soup of the day served from 12.00pm daily. It is located on the ground floor with an entrance on Euston Road or step free access via our Garden Entrance and is opening to the public:

Access arrangements
We would like Friends House to be accessible and welcoming to all. The
building was constructed in 1926 and its Grade II listing means that there are certain access limitations, however we are committed to doing all we can to ensure your visit is as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Parking
There are three designated on-street parking bays for blue badge holders on Endsleigh Gardens.

For Euston Station
Secured car park underneath the station, accessible via the stairs at the rear of the concourse. Vehicle access is from Melton Street. Disabled spaces are available and additional assistance can be requested to and from the car park.

There are more disabled parking spaces a bit further away at the British Library. There are three parking bays on the west side of the building, in Ossulston Street.
Arrival
The main entrance to the Friends House is located at the east end of the building.  There is a small garden area in front of the entrance.  You can access the entrance and the garden from Euston Road and also from Endsleigh Gardens, which runs parallel to Euston Road along the rear of the building.

The entrance to the building is at a higher level than the adjacent
streets and there is a ramp leading to the entrance from both Euston Road and Endsleigh Gardens.  These ramped routes are 3800mm wide and have a tarmac surface. There are no handrails.

Alternatively, there are steps with two central handrails from the garden up to the main entrance.

Other entrances: There is also an entrance with 6 steps on Euston Road leading directly to the Large Meeting House (this is only used on certain occasions when we have larger events), and a stepped entrance on Euston Road leading into the new Quaker Centre – this entrance has 8 steps and handrails along both sides, although the steps are quite steep.

Reception Desk
The Reception Desk is situated inside the main entrance on the east side of the building. It is open 7.30am to 9.30pm and is always staffed.  The reception area and desk are accessible to wheelchair users.

+44 (0)20 7663 1104

Lifts
There are three lifts in the building.  The two lifts in the ground floor
foyer are too small to accommodate a large wheelchair. However, we have a smaller wheelchair available to transfer to, in order to access the Restaurant and Rooms 17 – 19 via the right hand lift in reception. Please ask at reception if you wish to use this facility. The third lift is
larger and provides wheelchair access to the 1st & 2nd levels as required.

NOTE Most of the events by DPAC are all on the ground floor. There is only the *  Screening of ‘Blacklisted’ and workshop hosted by the Blacklist Support Group which will not be accessible to wheelchair users.

There will be an BSL interpreter for the workshop with another trainee to support Deaf delegates.

Guide dogs
Guide and assistance dogs are welcome.

Signage
There is clear signage throughout the building.

Sound enhancement system
Induction loops are fitted in Reception, Large Meeting House, Small
Meeting House,  Rooms 7,8 & 9, Drayton Room, Room 19, Room 1 and Room 2.
Please turn your hearing aid to the correct setting to use this service.

A portable infrared induction loop is available for all meeting rooms in
other parts of the building. For more information on this service, please ask our bookings team or at the Reception Desk.

Quaker Centre Café
The café offers a variety of high- and-low level seating and table
options. Quaker Centre staff will be more than happy to assist you in
bringing refreshments to your table.

Toilets
There are toilets on the lower ground floor, ground floor, first floor and third floor of the building.  There are accessible WCs on the ground
floor, first floor and third floor

Restaurant
The restaurant is accessed via stairs or a lift from the ground floor
foyer (for wheelchair users we have a small version on site that fits the
right hand lift if required).  There are handrails along either side of
the steps.