The Hardest Hit

This morning I took part in another big protest in central London. This time it was the Hardest Hit march, the largest ever protest by disabled people.

Reports on the exact numbers varied. The organisers estimated 9,000 people, the police said 8,000 and the BBC reported ‘over 1,000.’

The march was not only extraordinary in size but also in spirit and style. It featured Braille placards, protest chants in sign language and a group of five people with Tourettes shouting, ‘bomb!’

I went with Ruth and several others with Tourettes, including John and Paul who had made the long journey from Scotland and Tim who’d come down from Manchester. We were there with our friends, supporters and thousands of other people to express our anger at the slashes to services and benefits for disabled people. The government cuts are affecting lots of different departments and disabled people are being hit disproportionately hard from many different angles.

The march started with a rally and a number of different speakers addressed the crowd including Jane Asher, Shadow minister Liam Byrne and Mark Harrison, the chief executive of the Coalition of Disabled People. The disabled people’s minister Maria Miller didn’t attend. Mark put forward a vote of no confidence in her, which was greeted with a roar of agreement by the crowd. When he asked if anyone disagreed, there was silence except for the involuntarily ticced shouts of dissent from our group.

Like at the last march my tics struggled to stay ‘on message’:

The protestors around me sang:

“Build a bonfire, build a bonfire put the Tory’s on the top.
Put the Lib Dems in the middle and burn the bloody lot.”

I sang:

“Build a biscuit, build a biscuit, put sheepdog on the top.
Take a donkey out to dinner, and rub its little back.”

The march was an amazing show of strength and concern by disabled people. I hope that it helps make disability as visible to politicians and the wider public as it was on the streets today.

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