On Saturday 21 September I was standing side-by-side with other disabled people protesting against government austerity measures and what I consider to be unfair cuts to services. I attended on behalf of an organisation called Young People For Inclusion (YPFI), which is a project that helps young people with disabilities, including some that are directly effected by the austerity measures.
I was scared before the event began. I had seen TV coverage of previous protests and was concerned that things might get out of control and violence might erupt. Emotions typically run high at these events, which can make people hostile. I was worried about how police would react to the demonstrations. I would never usually attend something this big because of the fears I have. But despite this I was determined to see the protest through. And I did.
There were lots of other groups there. Some were against the Middle East conflicts, excessive spending on defence, there were unions like the GMB and RMT, as well various other leftist parties and organisations. There were people shouting against politicians and bankers, and chants reminding all who attended about the ‘cash for honours’ and expenses scandals – there was even a special chant for Boris telling him exactly where he can stick the anti-personnel water cannons he bought from the Turkish government. I didn’t sing that I can assure you, merely heard it.
My concern was supporting YPFI, whose reasons for attending are best summarised by its Co-ordinator Annabel Crowley.
“YPFI decided to join the March Against Austerity after joining in the protests against Atos in February, and the closure of the Independent Living Fund in May. YPFI members had campaigned against some of the policies that were part of the Government’s broader austerity programme, and when the opportunity arose to protest alongside many other groups and organisations in the March Against Austerity, YPFI members voted to join. YPFI have had meetings about the meaning of austerity and the effects of the Government’s policies – for example, YPFI members were shocked by the statistic that in only one year (2010-2011) 10,600 people with disabilities, long-term health conditions and terminal illnesses died within 6 weeks of having a work capability assessment and being deemed fit for work. YPFI agreed this was unacceptable and decided to join in the fight against cuts and austerity, in solidarity with everyone who has been affected.”
I feel that I have accomplished something by attending the march, despite my fears. With the YPFI members there to encourage me and keep me safe, I was contributing to a message directed at the Government. I felt inspired coming to the protest, adding my voice to the many organisations there that felt as I did.