On July 20 2017 Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) organised a demonstration outside the Department for Transport, London.
The demo was also attended by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). Activists handed in a 4,000 signature petition for the return of train guards who are being got rid of by management – for disabled’s and passenger’s rights and lives.
It took officials at the Department for Transport 30 minutes to send someone to receive the petition, they may have been delaying to see if the protest would go away. The protest was very assertive and we constantly shouted for the management to receive this petition and obey our demands. Our demands were: end indirect discrimination, for accessibility on the trains, stopping management from advocating austerity, and making life for disabled people too inconvenient. After we delivered the petition, activists occupied the road and blocked traffic. Police told us to come back and said ″you’re blocking the traffic″, and we said ″No. That’s the point, to demand our rights″.
The police arrived before all the demonstrators did, and watched us the entire time. Why? Because DPAC often organises militant direct action which the Police want to prevent. On July 3 when I was on a protest against the Haringey Development Vehicle – which will privatise housing, parks, and public buildings – we surrounded the civic centre, banging on the windows, and a police officer said to me when it ended ″Well done today″. I thought to myself ″Does he think I’m an idiot. We do this politics for the people and their needs, not for the law-enforcers″.
The fact that a few activists shouted for the DfT officials to come and collect the petition I think made sure that the officials came and collected the petition. It would have been good however for the whole demonstration to take up the shouting and chants so it was more effective. Demonstrations like this can build working-class solidarity, in this case amongst train workers and passengers, especially disabled ones.
In Workers′ Liberty we always give reports on events we attend so others know what happened, but also to start discussion on the next steps for the campaign which is becoming increasingly more important.
I am also involved in starting to set up a campaign called ″Take the stress out of studying″, similar issues face disabled students in education to those faced by disabled passengers, the fight is linked. I have an idea for a National Transport Service – which would be a show of socialism and solidarity, as workers and oppressed alone are weak, but workers and oppressed together strong.
In order to strengthen these demonstrations and unite against the bourgeoisie who cut our pensions, get rid our train guards and let the oppressed down, we need working class solidarity, with transitional demands that take people onto socialist theory. We also need a mass movement that fights against oppression, as well as stress, austerity, exploitation and exclusion of some people from society. We should argue for these ideas in every movement we are involved in, and connecting the different struggles together.