by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass
Before the DPAC week of action began, we caught up with Paula Peters and Sean McGovern to talk about disability, welfare and ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’. In the last of our interviews with those from the week of action, we bring you this audio interview where Paula and Sean talk candidly about why they are protesting and what the future holds. In the first part of the interview, we ask why the week of action is so important, and what they wanted to achieve. You can listen or read some of what was said in the quotes below.
“Essentially, it’s educating the wider public, particularly our class. By our class I mean the working classes. The classes that have been disenfranchised by the government. The ones that they call, I don’t know, dispossessed. Those that don’t have anything, the ones that they accuse of being ‘scroungers’, people who for one reason aren’t working, maybe because there aren’t jobs out there, but that’s another story. So we need to get in with them, back working side by side, trade unions, communities, so that when the evictions do come along, and they’ve already started, we’re ready for them. We’re there. If necessary, we’re twenty, thirty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty people. Thing is, if that happens at every eviction, the bailiffs aren’t going to be able to contend with that.”
“The media really blocked our message right the way through. Although that is slowly starting to change with the bedroom tax, and the Work Capability Assessment. I would like to see a lot of things change around the Work Capability Assessment because I have been working very closely with the Mental Health Resistance Network on that, and I’ve lost many friends to the Work Capability Assessment and one of them was two weeks ago.”
“I’ve kept some of the placards from a whole year of different protests, and I hope to keep them in the future for my nephews and nieces one day to look back, forty years from now, and see why we fought when we did, and why we tried for what we have now, Because if it wasn’t for people in the past fighting for our NHS we wouldn’t have that now. We wouldn’t have the employer’s rights we have now if people hadn’t have fought for those.”
“We are chipping away at the establishment. The establishment is noticing. It’s noticing – not in a good way, but in a negative way. It’s noticing like ‘hold on a minute these people are beginning to get a little bit too serious, they’re getting too powerful how do we suppress this?’ They suppress this by closing down our facebook pages, by threatening, by making threats with court and threatening us with the law, and groups like ATOS – when we attack ATOS, they come out and they put injunctions on people. I’ve had stuff taken off my blog…anti-ATOS stuff. So they’re becoming rattled.
“The positive side is that the press are beginning bit by bit. You know we’re getting the Independent, the Guardian, the Mirror, from time to time even the Mail, you know. God forbid. What’s happening with the world when the Mail comes through with a positive disability story?”
“It’s vital to give people hope that we can achieve something. Hope is so vital. When you see people out there, and I deal with so many of them online, saying ‘I just want to give up now. We can’t win’. I think our focus has got to be our strength, which is what the government are terrified of. It’s the strength when we all unite together.
“I do think they are very scared of us. Hence the media blackout. Hence how they’re trying to gag us, and the thing is, it’s only making us more determined to get our message out.
“We want rights. They’re taking our rights from us.”
“I’ve been on the receiving end of disability hate crime. The last four months I’ve had three attacks, because of the media rhetoric. I would like them to be able to give a more balanced view and say, ‘look this is what’s really going on, you need to be more measured and not so biased in your reporting.’
“Every week we just hear of more people dying, and that has got to stop now.”
“Disabled people have spent millennia hidden in the shadows, in corners, put away somewhere. But we’ve come out of there the last thirty, forty, fifty years. And guess what these austerity measures aren’t going to drive us back to those places we escaped from. We’ve already tasted, we’ve felt the sun on our faces, we’re not going to go back to the shadows again.”
Look out for the second part of the interview on Thursday.