12 September 2013
Disabled People Against Cuts – 2013 Week of Action
One year on from the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, with a Paralympic legacy that has seen disabled people increasingly robbed of our rights and freedoms under brutal attacks from our own government, Disabled People Against Cuts ran our 2013 week of action: Reclaiming Our Futures.
Co-ordinated in partnership with a number of other grassroots disabled people’s campaigns including Black Triangle, the WOW petition and Mental Health Resistance Network, the week enjoyed wide support from Unite the Resistance, the TUC, PCS, BFAWU, and Unite disabled workers’ committee as well as UKUncut, OccupyLondon, the Right to Work campaign, Fuel Poverty Action, Boycott Workfare and Keep Our NHS Public among others.
Beginning on 29th August with Transport for All’s Crossrail protest, opposing investment in new stations in the capital that aren’t accessible to disabled people, the week included a range of activities from online to on the streets with targets including national charity Scope who continue to run segregated schools and institutions and the BBC for their failure to be anything other than a mouthpiece for government lies and propaganda.
The final day on 4th September, saw a mass gathering of disabled people, known as a Freedom Drive, in Westminster. Around 150 protestors took part in the day, gathering initially in four ‘blocks’ outside different Government departments, central to the lives of disabled people: the Department for Education to oppose government attacks on inclusive education, Department of Energy and Climate Change for those angry about the numbers of disabled people living in fuel poverty while the energy companies rake in ever growing profits, Department for Transport to challenge inaccessible transport and proposed cuts to rail staff further reducing customer assistance and Department of Health to defend our NHS and demand our right to levels of social care support enabling choice, control, dignity and independence. The blocks heard from a range of speakers including disabled activists and union allies including Mick Carney, President of TSSA, Paul Walker from RMT NEC, and Sara Tomlinson from the NUT.
All blocks then converged on the DWP to protest against the brutal attacks on social security with speakers including Sean McGovern from Unite EC, Claire Glasman from Camden United for Benefit Justice and Roger Lewis of DPAC. There was a live performance of Citizen Smart’s Bedroom Tax song while the ‘Atos miracles’ faith healer and gospel choir from BBC3’s ‘The Revolution will be Televised’ were met by loud chants of ‘Atos kills’. Finally pants were hung up on makeshift washing lines outside Caxton House for protestors to leave messages for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a man who lives in a free mansion and claims expenses for underpants.
The Freedom Drive then wheeled over to Parliament for a lobby and official launch of the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto. It took over an hour and a half for all the protestors, many in wheelchairs, to get through security and reach the packed committee room with many including the actress Liz Carr and shadow Minster for Disabled People Anne McGuire having to sit out in the corridor. In the meeting activists and MPs agreed that the demands set out in the manifesto need to be backed up by a programme of direct action and united action with the trade unions if anything is going to change.
Disabled people have fought our corner over 3 centuries. And those fights have brought victories; the Independent Living Movement, our early CILs (Centres for Independent Living) and DPO’s (Disabled Peoples Organisations) and the significant rights for disabled people which are now under attack. They represent big victories, brought about by mobilizing in our communities around our common cause – and having the will and determination to see our demands met without compromising our rights.
This week disabled people again came together in anger, and celebration of disability pride, to unite around our demands. DPAC recognises that this is not a fight that disabled people can win on our own, not should we, because this is a fight that affects all our communities and we look forward to standing in solidarity with our allies in the trade unions in the struggle ahead.