Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Because I'd rather die than go back into an institution"

Yesterday saw a daring campaign led by disabled protest group Disabled People Against Cuts with support from UKuncut. Wheelchair users chained themselves together across a road blocking the link between Oxford Circus and Regent Street in central London.

Video footage is available here from ITN and this powerful, moving film made by the Guardian's John Domoko's. There wasn't a great deal of mainstream media coverage, perhaps because unlike the student protests or riots there was no violence or mess left behind, just organised 'delicate disruption'.

The protestors chained themselves together at approximately midday*, and were soon surrounded by slightly bemused looking police officers. It was heartening to see Sky News report the views of protestors, and include the statement from one gentleman that he 'wished no animosity to the police' but to explain the sweeping cuts to disability services, from social care, to the scrapping of the ILF, to welfare cuts meant his ability to live independently was at risk and that he'd "rather die than go back into an institution" This report was particularly moving because the gentleman speaking appeared to be old enough to have either lived in institutions or to have grown up with the threat of being forced to live in one.

There were no reports of arrests; the Met police appeared unsure as to how to deal with the situation, and from the coverage available online they seemed extremely reluctant to intervene further than politely requesting people to move. Watching I could only think back to a conversation with a Met police officer I had about this around a year ago, where he explained that if disabled people wanted to protest then many of the Met would want to support them. (obviously this is not a formal view of the Met police!)

However, moving 20 wheelchair using protestors would have been a problem as there were no accessible police vans to put people into, and there was a particular comedy moment when the police tried to issue instructions via loudhailer and were politely asked if they had a British Sign Language interpreter available. They did not!

At 2pm, having made their point the protestors unchained themselves and dispersed.

This protest was only in part to do with the welfare cuts. They are just one of the issues currently creating a 'perfect storm' facing disabled people. Regardless of your beliefs about the deficit and welfare cuts, this protest was particularly intended to highlight how the media representation of disabled people has changed over the past few years, that public perception of disability has altered as a result of that to be less sympathetic to the needs of disabled, sick and older people, and that in the past 12 months alone disability hate crime has risen by a horrifying 75%.

It was incredibly powerful and moving to see the disabled community coming together to protest in this way after the successes of campaigns like The Broken of Britain, Where's The Benefit and the more recent Spartacus Report. Although people did not know each other before these protests the sense of unity, community and belief that if one of us is hurt, all of us are hurt was strongly evident throughout the day.

* time corrected thanks to @sisyphusa 

11 comments:

JuliaM said...

"... that public perception of disability has altered as a result of that to be less sympathetic to the needs of disabled, sick and older people..."

Tell me, do you expect that throwing your lot in with the public nuisance that is UKUncut, and disrupting shoppers, is going to make that better?

Or worse?

Stiffy said...

Lack of accessible police vans and of BSL communication: says it all!

Becca said...

I don't know where this very cute mini-anecdote about there being no accessible police vehicles came from but I'm afraid it's total fiction - be assured, there were at least 3 accessible police vans parked yards away from the protest by about half past 1. The Met are used to DAN; it would be a huge surprise if they had failed to prepare for us.

Also, you know perfectly well that nobody is ever too young to have spent time rotting in an institution, I was born in 1985 and spent 9 months being abused and neglected in turns in a 'young disabled unit' in 2008, and I know of children as young as 2 who live in segregated institutions now, in 2012. This will only get worse under current Tory policy.

Irishmist said...

We watched the Guardian's film of the protest, last night, and it was indeed very moving. We felt so proud of the protesters;some looked understandably a bit nervous, but determined. Very,very well done to them all.

pseudodeviant said...

Thank you! We had such wonderful support from everyone who couldn't make it - it was fantastic. I'd never been filmed before :-)

Would you like me to tweet you a link to my blog post on why I went & took part? (I won't spam your comments section with it)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Psuedodeviant: Yes please...and please do put it in the comments section cos that way more people will share it

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Becca: It came from twitter yesterday, it's very difficult to piece together coverage into one blog post when the news drip feeds in via various sources.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Met had been a bit unprepared for DAN...they definitely were used to such actions, but there haven't been any for some years.
And yes, I do know that about insitutions, but the wider public who read these blogs don't have that understanding so it's important to break the information down into small enough chunks to be digested. Huge well done to everyone who went yesterday though!

Sarah Ismail said...

Guys, if anyone here took part please Tweet links to your blog posts to @samedifference1. I would like to do a round up of them on Same Difference.

Kali, there was more mainstream media coverage than I was expecting, and I was pleased to see it...

pseudodeviant said...

Ok, here's a link to my blog about why I protested yesterday - http://pseudo-living.blogspot.com/2012/01/disabled-peoples-protest-in-oxford.html

Pats Petition said...

Here's the link to Pat's Petition which is about that 'perfect storm' of all the changes affecting disabled people and carers -

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

It needs to get to 100,000 signatures to get a response from government so please do share and get people to sign it. These issues affect every one of us - we could be disabled tomorrow - so MILLIONS should be signing! Let's get it to 100k!

Gary said...

I am glad people were organised yesterday a message needs to be sent to the Goverment and their partners in crime the so-called "Media" that the disabled are not "scroungers" many hold down jobs.
I too am disabled and although I have hidden disabilities I do not qualify for assistance
I wish to pass on my support to everyone who took part in the events of yesterday.