Alas, my days of actively demonstrating are coming to an end. But, don’t take this as me surrendering to the vagaries of age; nor an admission that being disabled in some way means I need wrapping-up and protecting; as this isn’t the case.
While it should be the inalienable right for all of us to get out and demonstrate it isn’t always practicable for some disabled people to always take part in such events. An example that comes to mind is the Wapping Dispute back in 1986-87. Though back then I wasn’t affiliated to any political party or group, another floating Leftie in a sea of Thatcher’s misery, trade union and movement campaigns excited my interest.
After visiting the picket line several times I quickly realised that this dispute, like the Miners Strike a couple of years before, was a defining moment in the history of my class. Though only at the periphery of the action I believed, as I still do, that solidarity and support for such action is the fuel that keeps the engine ticking over.
Back then, in my late 20s, my disabilities were nowhere near as incapacitating as they became; and, though I had weakness down my left side and walked with a pronounced limp, I got around relatively easily. A major inconvenience was that I couldn’t run – oh, and I still felt conscious and in some ways vulnerable about the plate in my head.
On my way to a march one day back in ’86 I met up with some NGA and Sogat mates; one of them pulled me to one side and warned me something ‘heavy’ could go down and because of my situation it could be dangerous for me to be take part in that day’s action.
He conveyed this to me in such a way that I agreed; took part in the beginning of the march and then split away and went for a drink. Back in Stockwell later that night I was having a drink in a pub watching TV news coverage of vicious mounted police attacks on trade unionists at Wapping – my mate was correct.
Had I been present there is a strong likelihood I’d have been attacked by the police as my safety mechanism is broken (I can’t run); and, with a weakened skull blows from a baton or truncheon could have proved fatal.
Coming back to today’s demonstrations; I’m still at a disadvantage. Again I still can’t run; and, though now in a wheelchair I can’t even push that at any appreciable speed. Given that I need to use a toilet with great frequency, every 40-60 minutes; I’d be really disadvantaged in a kettling situation – I’m sure Lily Law wouldn’t take my particular needs into consideration.
So, what do I do? How can I exercise my right to demonstrate against the tyrannies that are being heaped upon us today? That is, how can I peacefully participate without fear of being confined in one area by the police for maybe 8-hours without access to basic facilities such as toilets? Within a couple of hours I’d pee myself without proper amenities.
Much as I want to personally engage in actions against this vicious crew of a coalition, these wreckers of our Welfare State; am I selfish in also wish to preserve my dignity and health.
Therefore, students, trade unionists, public service workers, HNS employees, teachers, fire fighters et al; though, I may not be visible on these marches; please, rest assured that my heart and soul march to the beat of your revolutionary drums.
In the struggle