Wheelchair-user to join Jarrow marchers on 300-mile trek to Westminster


theweek120by150A disabled campaigner is to play a leading role in a 300-mile march to parliament that will follow the historic path of the Jarrow Crusade and deliver a protest message about government cuts to parliament.

Angela Walker has volunteered to be pushed in her wheelchair along the route of the march from Jarrow to the Houses of Parliament, where she will hand over a petition.

She and other activists who plan to take part are protesting about the impact of government cuts and the coalition’s “austerity” programme.

The March to Parliament follows in the footsteps of more than 200 men from the town of Jarrow, near Newcastle, who marched nearly 300 miles to London in 1936 to protest to MPs about the lack of jobs in their home town and across the country.

The marchers will set off from Jarrow on 22 June, passing through town and cities including Darlington, Harrogate, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Northampton and Luton, and hoping to arrive in Westminster on 10 July.

The “re-enacted” Jarrow march is being organised by the radical international protest collective Anonymous, which wants to show “how we feel about all the cuts, the austerity, DWP/ATOS and bankers that are destroying this country”.

Walker, from Great Lumley, near Chester-le-Street, who has several long-term conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia, admits she is concerned about the effect of such a long trek on her health.

She said: “I am concerned, but it is something I feel I have to do. I hope it will raise the awareness of those people up and down the country that the benefit cuts do not affect.

“I have thought more than twice about [going on the march]. I have a son who lives with me and he keeps saying, ‘are you saying you have to do this?’ and I say, ‘yes, I have to.’

“I was born on the fourth of July, Independence Day, so I am a very independent person and I am living up to that.”

She added: “I hope the government will take some notice of the petition and the lengths we have gone to to get it there.”

She said she was particularly concerned about the cuts and reforms to disability living allowance.

She also pointed to the impact of the “dreadful” work capability assessment on disabled people seeking out-of-work disability benefits – although she has not faced one herself yet.

And although she will not personally be affected by the government’s new “bedroom tax”, she knows many others who will. “It is for them that I am doing it,” she said.

The marchers are hoping to persuade hotels along the route to donate rooms. Otherwise, there may be a support bus she can sleep on. If not, she said, she will be sleeping in a tent.

12 March 2013