If you can't make it to the march, for whatever reason, you can protest online and there is also a really good guide for writing to your MP.
Full details of the route, and frequently asked questions have been made available, and they have also created a flickr group, a twitter list and a facebook page, tuning in well to the influence of social media in recent protests and campaigns. Hardest Hit is also including lobbying MPs about the Welfare Reform Bill into the protest, which can also make a palpable difference to the situation of disabled people in Britain.
Hardest Hit has the potential to be a huge and important event for increasing visibility of the issues facing disabled people during these so-called 'times of austerity', and the involvement of several big charities may increase the likelihood of media interest. At a time when disabled people are being constantly vilified in the right-wing press, raising awareness of the issues we face could begin to change perceptions and increase support for disabled people in Britain.
The whole of the Where's the Benefit? is dedicated to talking about why the welfare cuts are not only demeaning but downright dangerous, and it would be wrong of us not to mention Hardest Hit. However, not everyone on the team, myself included, feel we can fully get behind the demonstration.
Some of the big charities and organisations involved in organising the Hardest Hit campaign are ones which, historically at least, have been a part of the oppression of disabled people. Disabled People Against Cuts have publicly withdrawn their support of the demo, saying,
Do we ignore the fact that organisations might be viewing disabled people as ‘helpless cripples’ so long as they are prepared to come out and oppose the cuts? We believe it is precisely because we are facing severe attacks upon our rights and lives at this moment in time that there is even more reason than ever to ensure that the messages we’re sending out and the actions we take are clear and work in the long term best interest of all disabled people. I make no apology for saying that DPAC refuses to “turn a blind eye” and betray certain groups of disabled people for some mythical “greater good”. Some may accuse us of cutting off our noses to spite our face or needlessly creating barriers where none exist, however, it is our view that it would be hypocritical of DPAC to speak of defending people’s rights, including the right to independent living and self-determination, if we gave a nod and a wink to anyone who is engaged in activity undermining these rights.Other concerns involve the motives of the charities. Miss Dennis Queen writes,
When campaign success is going to happen you can count on these charities use their plentiful resources to to sweep in and be there to help government 'resolve' the anger, fear and penalties disabled people face. They get to sit at the table with Government and make sure THEIR business interests get served first, not the interests of disabled people. They take control of matters for government, claiming to be the people who represent disabled people and 'look after us' so nobody else need get bogged down in the detail.A post I wrote last December talked about Disability Works UK, who were bidding for contracts to carry out the Government's compulsory back-to-work schemes. Disability Works UK is made up of 9 disability charities and organisations. 4 of these (Mind, Mencap, Scope and Leonard Cheshire Disability) are listed as supporters of Hardest Hit. I find it hard to understand how they can support a campaign against the cuts, while seeking to profit from the legislation that will result. Would we support a march organised by ATOS or A4e?
But the aspect which caused perhaps the most concern was the announcement that Maria Miller had been asked to speak. Maria Miller is the Minister for Disabled People, and she is fully behind the disability benefit cuts. She has, unsurprisingly, turned down the invitation to speak at Hardest Hit, but the fact that she was invited in the first place poses yet more questions about the motivations of the march's organisers.
There is always a fear that it is wrong for us to show disunity in public. Will people use that to discredit the movement as a whole, or the good done by parts of it? It's possible, but I also believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice if we do not speak up about what concerns and hurts us.
Where's the Benefit? are not endorsing the event, nor are we opposing it. We are here to report on and discuss issues to do with disability benefit cuts, and the Hardest Hit march is without doubt a part of this. Many disabled people are supporting it, and everyone hopes that it is a great success. We all want change, and for many, Hardest Hit is one step towards this. It is well organised, well publicised and could make a real difference. The potential differences in motives and structures are less important than the message, and the impact that this campaign could have. However, for other disabled people, it is more problematic, for all the reasons I have outlined above.
So for those of you who are participating, I hope it is fantastically successful. For those not, there are many other ways to protest the cuts. Keep reading here and take a look at DPAC's Week of Action against ATOS Origin, for a start.
(cross-posted at incurable hippie blog)