Many thanks to Emma (@pseudodeviant) for letting us repost this.
This morning I got up very early and (with help from my wonderful partner & carer) got dressed, drugged and ready to catch a train to London.
After the normal mess around with trains and alike we made it to Euston station in a fairly bright mood. We decided to save some money and roll down to the DPAC meeting point (MacDonalds on Regent Street at 11.30am) which took a while. Luckily for me, the first face I saw was that of blogger Latent Existence which was a lovely surprise, especially when it transpired we had actually met at an action in Birmingham ages ago. There was a bit of milling about whilst the plan was explained to us;
- Collect a D-Lock and keys.
- Get into place at Oxford Circus (where Oxford Street & Regent Street cross).
- When the lights change UK Uncut activist would run across with a chain which would have each end attached to a lamppost.
- Wheelchairs were to roll over to the crossing and line up along the chain.
- Lock the wheelchair to the chain and start protesting!
Whilst waiting for it to begin I spoke to a few journalists that had found us and explained my reasons for being there;
To make it all the more poignant, yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. A day during which we remembered those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi party. The party wished for racial purity and in 1933 began forcibly sterilising disabled people under the “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring”. By 1939 they began “euthanising” children born with severe defects and within months the criteria for eligibility for “euthanasia” was both relaxed and extended to older children, adolescents, and adults. But before this started happening the Nazi propaganda mill tried to make sure that the public were on side with gems like this poster:
That’s why I joined the protest. That’s why I and many others chained ourselves in our wheelchairs across Oxford Circus. We see what is happening, how our rights are being eroded away and how thoughtless government propaganda is ruining our right to live free from fear and intimidation. We see all this and we are angry. We won’t go down without a fight. Even if it near kills us.
The protest itself was brilliant. No sooner had we done up our D-locks and settled into a chorus of “No ifs, no buts, no disability cuts!” than the sound of sirens filled the air. The police & some people that I assume were fancy shop security (given the odd beefeater meets bellhop uniforms) surrounded us quite quickly but did nothing. The atmosphere was great, angry yet positive, vulnerable yet strong as steel. We had a wonderful time and met some fantastic people. I spoke to journalists, independent media and radio crews and watched as some amazing people got filmed by the BBC & Sky. We had initially thought we would get an hour at the most before the bolt-cutters cam out and we were either arrested or dispersed. I think that because of the amount of media attention we had the police were loathe to act and risk bad publicity. They also would have had a big job trying to arrest all of the wheelchair users as I don’t think their vans are particularly accessible. Still, by 12.45 the police were telling us that we could either move over and just block one side of the road (the street behind us was strewn with abandoned buses) or we could stay and they would take ‘appropriate action’. Many of those chained up expressed a wish to stay and risk arrest simply to show how serious they were about protesting the Welfare Reform Bill. Sadly we had to leave before the end as we had a train to catch but twitter informed me that everything broke up peacefully at around 2pm with no arrests or trouble.
To finish on a brighter note are some pictures from today’s demo;
(Picture via @HeardInLondon)
Legal Observers – the person in orange was from Green and Black Cross, the person at the back with a camcorder works for the Met.
* let us remember that this term also includes disabled people that aren’t technically ‘disabled enough’ to receive DLA.
Media Links (edited to add more as they arrive):
- Guardian – Disability campaigners stage Central London protest against welfare reforms and also Video footage from the protest (which includes me)
- Indymedia UK – Photos and Audio (which I think includes me) from the protest.
- Ian Birrell in the Observer, Dec 2011 – The demonisation of the disabled is a chilling sign of the times.
- Huffington Post – UK Uncut protest brings Oxford Circus to a standstill
- BBC News – Protesters show anger over the welfare reform bill and footage of DPAC’s Adam Lotun on BBC Breakfast.
- DPAC Photo’s on Flikr.
- Daily Mail – Wheelchair users chain themselves together and block central London over welfare cuts.
- Mirror – Disabled bring Oxford Circus to a halt in welfare cuts demonstration.
- Coalition of Resistance – An ‘amazing’ success – disabled protest blocks Oxford Circus.
- MSN video – Disability campaigners block Oxford Circus. (video)
- ITN – Disability Campaigners in welfare protest. (has video)