It was a tough decision for those disabled people who went on the anti-cuts march on Wednesday 11th May. Do they march and appear to be supporting the non-user led charities and organisations that organised the event, or stay away in protest that the charity Leonard Cheshire was one of the lead organisations?
Some people found a compromise and went there with the specific purpose of meeting those crips that weren’t usually involved in public protest, and weren’t aware that there was a user-led alternative to the charities that supported them. Our own Liz Carr and Penny Pepper were two such people and who made quite a few new friends and contacts on the march; disabled people who had never had the opportunity to talk with politically aware crips before.
Others went on the march for a similar reason but also carried placards that had a message on both sides; ‘Stop the cuts’ on one side and ‘Rights not Charity’ on the other side. Richard Downes of Brent Advocacy Concerns (a user led organisation) was one such person and reports that he was able to guide a few more disabled people towards those crip organisations that are fighting the cuts AND the charities!
Other politically active disabled people, including myself, were of those who decided that any involvement with such an organisation as Leonard Cheshire was a step too far, especially as we’re constantly receiving information from former and existing clients of Leonard Cheshire, all claiming to have been abused and discriminated against by that organisation.
Probably because it speaks to my prejudices regarding some of the organisers of the march on Wednesday, the comments that I’ve heard from disabled people who did take part, and some of the video I’ve seen on UTube all seem to confirm my worst fears.
“The march was over-organised with charity workers telling us when to smile at the cameras, what to shout out and generally treating us like children!” was one comment expressed by a woman wheelchair user.
Other people commented too:
“I’ve never felt so disempowered and patronised [by the organisers]!”
“I came all this way to protest and now they’re telling me to quietly make my way back home. I came here to protest and I WANT TO PROTEST!”
Having watched excerpts of the march on video and seeing disabled people herded like docile sheep by tabard wearing organisers – each tabard carrying the logo of their specific charity – I personally feel that it did little to challenge the government’s slash and burn tactics. There was nothing on display that reflected the raw anger that crips throughout the country are feeling. Anger that was elegantly expressed by one protester who, despite struggling to articulate her feeling due to her impairment, managed to say to camera “This government don’t give a fffff ...FUCK!”
The best video of the march that I’ve seen so far is, ironically the one by Scope. And it does pick out the more positive aspects of the march. Click here to watch it.
For further information about groups and organisations OF disabled people who are fighting the cuts, please click on the following links:
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Brent Advocacy Concerns
Mental Health & The Wider Disability Movement
Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN)
And for those of you living in Brighton and area, there is going to be a Brighton Disabled People Against Cuts (BDPAC) meeting on 19th May. Go to the Creative Cafe website for full details.
PS. For those who aren't familiar with disabled people's stand against Leonard Cheshire you can read a pretty good summing up by clicking on this link.