Apr 082011
 

According to John Pring’s report on the TUC 26 March rally, many disabled people were there ‘

to protest against cuts to disability benefits and other aspects of the government’s welfare reforms, while others were angry about the impact on inclusive education, and cuts to local services and support.

Peter Purton, the TUC’s disability policy officer, said disabled people were the “worst affected” by the cuts, including disability benefit reforms, the loss of public sector jobs, and cuts to legal aid. He said he was “delighted” that so many disability groups had taken part in the protest.

The Labour MP Dame Anne Begg said she had taken part in the protest to show “solidarity” and that “there is an alternative and we know that the priorities of this government are wrong”.

She said:

“It seems to me that those who have least seem to be losing the most and that is simply not fair. Disabled people in particular feel very strongly because they seem to be in the forefront of many of the cuts.”

Criticisms were made of the TUC’s access arrangements, with some complaining that they had had to fight through crowds to reach the allocated “safe space” for disabled people near the front of the march.

The TUC had also said that the disabled people at the front would be able to set their own pace, but they were soon swamped and separated from each other by thousands of marchers who overtook them soon after the march began.

A TUC spokeswoman said it had made “extensive efforts” to make the event as accessible as possible, but was now carrying out an assessment of the access arrangements.

She said:

“We would not pretend that everything was perfect or could not be improved, but we are pretty sure that this was the most accessible demonstration of its size ever organised in London.”

She added: “Some reported issues were simply due to the greater than expected numbers.”

That might be true but we hope that this assessment means that they will be improved in the future. We are not convinced that the stewards were briefed enough to afford the right access to disabled people. Hopefully they will give more training to stewards in the future especially if they want disabled people to continue being able to take part in marches of this kind.

There was some disappointment that the Labour leader Ed Miliband failed to mention disabled people in his speech in Hyde Park, even though he mentioned maternity services, Sure Start centres, small business owners, teachers, students, “families struggling to get by”, libraries, Citizens Advice Bureaux, community centres and the NHS.

His spokeswoman said later that other groups had also not been mentioned, and that Miliband had raised the government’s plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance from people in residential care at that week’s prime minister’s questions.

She said:

“It is an issue he cares about and it is an issue the Labour Party cares about. He is actually aware of the deep concerns and anxieties that disabled people have about the effect of the cuts.”

As disabled people who bears the deepest impact of the cuts on our individual and collective lives we should hope he is more than ‘actually aware’ and that it is not mere ‘deep concerns and anxieties’ but actually feeling the effect of the cuts and drawing blood – that those cuts have taken the toll of a few lives already.

The report also mentioned DPAC’s online protest (which received more than a quarter of a million views) for those unable to attend the march or rally saw an estimated 200 people email messages of support, which were “pinned” to an online map of the UK.

—Eleanor Lisney

Mar 202011
 

protest posterIn preparation for the TUC rally next Saturday, we would like to pass you some information and advice.

Access details for the rally is at http://marchforthealternative.org.uk/march-logistics/access-and-disability-2/

Please note that there is scooter hire facility included in that link and all the notifications to be made for disabled people.

DPAC will be starting from Savoy Street – look out for our banner(s) with other disabled groups and organisations. There will be at DPAC supporters at the static point in Hyde Park as well (tbc).

Firstly, it will be a long day so please bring something to eat and drink with you in case you cannot get to any provisions in the day. Bring whistles, rattles or things to make noise with. Bring something warm to wear as well – just in case.

Secondly, although we don’t anticipate that there will be any problem with  or that anyone is likely to get arrested if you are attending we feel that it is best to pass on this legal information to you just to be on the safe side and so if you needed to you know what your rights are.

Legal Observers in orange bibs will distribute 50,000 of a special
small-size (A7) version of the Bust Card on March 26th. These Legal
Observers are volunteers and are totally independent from the police
and march organisers. They will be there solely in support of those
attending the demonstration. Please note that there will also be Legal
Observers from ‘Liberty’ wearing green bibs who will be ‘monitoring’
the events generally, but NOT doing legal support work.

Due to the scale of the event the Legal Observers handing out Bust
Cards will not be able to reach all those participating, so they are
sending out this important information in advance – please forward to
your members and networks throughout the UK.

We advise every group and contingent to chose a Legal Support person
from one of their members attending. Such a person could distribute
Bust Cards to colleagues and others nearby (please print out plenty of
copies of the text below to distribute). They should carry a note book
and ensure, in the event of any arrest or police harassment of
marchers, that:

– information is collated (eg. name/description of person, time,
place, ID nos of police involved and any aggressive behaviour by them)
– witnesses identified and contact details taken
– good legal representation is arranged (see the recommended
solicitors’ phone numbers on the Bust Card below)
– follow-up support offered by your group if needed in the days/weeks
after the demonstration.

Such information should be held in confidence, used solely for the
purpose of supporting a participant, and should be shared only with
them and their legal representative for that purpose.

Do print out and circulate to your contingent/members/participants…

BUST CARD – LEGAL ADVICE

If you are arrested
– You have the right to free legal advice at the police station
– You have the right to have someone notified you’re in custody
– You have the right to read the PACE code of practice C which lists
all your rights
– You have a right to silence. Say “No Comment” to all questions in a
police interview
– An appropriate adult must be called to the police station if you
appear to be under 17, or have a learning difficulty.

Recommended solicitors (please note the phone numbers)
Bindmans 0207 833 4433 Hodge Jones and Allen 07659 111 192

Legal Advice – Stop and Search
– Before searching you a Constable must give you their name and
police station, the power they are searching you under and the reason
they are searching you.
– You do not have to give your name and address or answer police
questions under any stop and search power.
– If you witness an arrest, write down what happened as soon as
possible afterwards. Court cases may take place months or even years
later so it’s vital you record what happened while it’s fresh in your
memory.

Other support

On the day if you witness an arrest or want support contact our Legal
Support office: 07946 541 511

from the Green and Black Cross Bust card

More Legal Briefings can be obtained at this link

As we have said we do not expect any problems but this is just a precaution.