Supporting Grenfell too
For the first time in many years I joined a demo a couple of weeks ago. In my pre-wheelchair days I had been a frequent attendee at CND, Anti-Apartheid and other marches. Having seen the overtly aggressive actions from police increase over the years, I was scared to be part of a demo again. Further damage to my spine could leave me paralysed. That was a risk I was not willing to take.
But as I read the postings on Facebook for the anti-DUP demo and saw friends were going I decided to join them. My anger as a gay woman at the lack of LGBT equality, was one reason. However it was my experiences as a Nurse supporting women from Northern Ireland who had come to the UK for termination of pregnancy, that was my deciding factor.
Forcing a woman who had been the victim of rape or incest (or both) to continue with a pregnancy is beyond cruel. Maybe carrying a child to term would be harmful for other reasons. The psychological damage these women carry throughout their lives isolates them. They can never speak of the wounds they bear. These women need support, not condemnation and religious intolerance.
To force them to travel to another part of the UK and then pay for the operation they quite rightly seek, is wrong. Why should where a woman lives determine if she pays for a operation she needs?
So I found my bright red pro-choice t-shirt and set off the join my friends. I even managed to park in the first disabled bay I found at the back of Westminster Abbey. A minor miracle, that bode well for my day.
I soon found the friend I’d arranged to wheel with. Jay introduced me to one of her friends and another woman who was on her own. We soon swapped stories and found common threads in our lives.
The biggest obstacle I faced all day? No ramps onto the grass at Parliament Square! Why? Are wheelchair users banned from the grass? It may be difficult for us to sit on, but don’t separate us out. Luckily my friends helped me get on to the grass and back to the pavement again.
The speeches at the beginning were inspiring. I was so pleased that supporters of the Grenfell Tower victims were able to join us. That was making our women’s only march mixed gender, unusual but absolutely right at this time. The march was also trans-inclusive, which was another positive action by the organisers. I’m always pleased when the TEFs (trans exclusionist feminists) don’t get to inflict their displaced irrationalism on other women.
Officially the wheelchair users were to be at the front of the march, but as we moved up towards Downing Street, I soon found myself cocooned in the center of a mass of women. I felt fully included and safe. On Theresa May’s door step the chanting begun to increase. “No racist, sexist, anti gay, no DUP no way.” “Torys, Torys, Torys, out, out out”, we continued. Then came the chants for Corbyn. Never in all my 40 years of demonstrations have I been amongst a group of protesters who not only wanted the current government out of office, but knew exactly who they wanted as the next PM.
As I watched Jeremy Corbyn speak at Glastonbury a few hours later, with that enormous crowd supporting and cheering him, I felt the same solidarity that I had been part of in Whitehall. I cannot recall a time I have ever known this strength of positive feeling towards a party leader in the UK.
Slowly, but very surely the political tide is turning. The anger about Grenfell, and the untold stories yet to come. The chaos of the Brexit negotiations and this poison-pact with the DUP will all unravel soon.
Decent, safe homes, a woman’s right to choose, a society that does not discriminate, these are values for all. We will continue to demonstrate until they are achieved.
This post first appeared on my Huffington Post blog.