Leading disabled activists have hailed the success of the Hardest Hit protest after thousands of disabled people marched past Parliament to demonstrate against the government’s spending cuts and welfare reforms.
Organisers estimate that between 10, 000 and 12,000 people – the majority of them disabled people – took part in the protest.
But they warned that the march was merely “the start of a very long campaign”, while the next step could be legal action against the government over its breach of disabled people’s human rights.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), which helped organise the protest, said: “It is going to be a very difficult summer and the next year is going to be increasingly hard for disabled people.”
She said UKDPC would now be looking at both the economic impact of the government’s proposals and cuts, and the “human rights perspective”, with a legal challenge likely to follow.
She added: “I think we have to really start to put the pressure on.”
Tara Flood, chief executive of the Alliance for Inclusive Education, said she believed the rally would have a political impact, and added: “These things always have an impact, but it is never immediate.”
She said the rally would at the very least empower “a whole load of disabled people who never in their entire lives have they gone out defending their rights” to return home and continue the fight.
Andy Rickell, chief executive of the Vassall Centre Trust in Bristol and a former chief executive of the British Council of Disabled People (UKDPC’s predecessor), said he also believed the march would have an impact on the government.
He said: “Politicians do listen when people march. It does make a difference. It is the raw end of democracy.”
The trust brought a minibus of disabled people to the march, as well as a local TV news camera crew.
Rickell added: “If someone is complaining about the system individually it can be dangerous. It jeopardises the support they are getting. One of the advantages of doing it in a group is it is no longer about you. They can’t pick you off.”
Faryal Velmi, director of Transport for All, said she hoped the march would have an impact on the coalition.
She said: “I think demonstrations should be the beginning of something, not the end of something. I really do hope that is what will happen.”
12 May 2011