Over the last few weeks students, past, present and future have been protesting about the proposed increase in tuition fees and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance. In the last few days the presence of disabled protesters at these demonstrations has been widely debated in the media. This was prompted by footage on YouTube of a wheelchair user, Jody McIntyre, being dragged from his chair by police. Jody is angry and articulate about both the issues and his treatment, as he made very clear when the BBC interviewed him earlier this week.
Some journalists and individuals making comments online have expressed the view that disabled people shouldn’t put themselves at risk like this, insinuating that Jody was either at fault for endangering himself by protesting, or not really disabled at all. Both of these assertions are ridiculous. Everyone should be able to demonstrate without fear of humiliation, injury or attack.
I’ve been to protests when I’ve felt strongly about something even though I know my tics have the potential to provoke hostile reactions from the police or even from protesters. But the way these recent demonstrations have been policed has made me even more concerned that I would be vulnerable. I discussed this with Leftwing Idiot, before the footage of Jody emerged, and he said he thought, “The police might just hit you until you stop moving”. I suspect this is entirely possible, especially in a noisy, dark, hyped-up situation. If Ben Brown asked me, “Did you shout anything provocative?” the answer would inevitably be, “Yes I did.”
I want to be able to make a decision about whether or not to demonstrate based on the issues, and not have my freedom to do so constrained by fear of police brutality.
Advent Outburst #15
“Calm down Christmas time.”