A night in the cells is nothing to a lifetime imprisoned by cuts

Posted on March 29, 2011 by | 5 Comments

I spent the best part of the weekend in a police cell in Illford. I’ve been accused of taking part in a peaceful protest at Fortnum & Mason’s, and charged with aggravated trespass. But being locked up for a day is nothing, nothing to the fate of those who will be hardest hit by the government’s cuts and privatisation.

While out promoting the march a few weeks ago, a friend and I met two such people. Both of these people are severely physically disabled. They cannot leave their homes without help. They have a carer who comes, twice a week, and takes them in her car for a trip into town, where they do their shopping, and maybe see a friend.

But the money that pays for the carer’s petrol is being withdrawn by George Osborne. She can no longer afford to take the people we met into town – can’t afford to help them get out of the house. And so both expect to be left imprisoned in their own homes for much of the rest of their lives.

Or let’s look at Martha. Martha is a multiply disabled woman from Oxfordshire. She lives in a care home – has lived there for most of her life. That’s where her friends are, she knows her carers there. It’s her home. Sometimes, she is pushed in her wheelchair around the garden, and she likes this. Her Dad, William, can tell she likes it, because she calms down. She’s not been calm very often lately, because she can tell what’s happening to her. She may not know the details – that the government is launching a radical economic experiment: mass privitisation and the biggest spending cuts in a western country since those that prolonged the Great Depression. She probably doesn’t know that that George Osborne announced massive cuts to the support she needs by telling us that anyone who thinks these cuts are solely about saving money is “missing the point” – that the credit crunch is a “once in a generation opportunity” to change the services she relies on. Martha doesn’t know what these cuts are about. She hasn’t come across phrases like: “shock doctrine“. She’s never heard of Fred Goodwin or derivatives, or sub-prime mortgages.

But she can tell that she is going to be kicked out of her home. The cuts to the Disability Living Allowance mean that she can no longer afford to stay there – her parents can’t afford to subsidise her place. She will be forced into a much cheaper home. One where she won’t be with her friends – friends she may never get to see again. Her trips outside will be much rarer. She will be left lonely and alone, with a rapid turnover of carers she can never get to know. And so she will be too will be imprisoned locked up in an institution she hasn’t chosen, trapped by cuts and by a government who thinks that she can’t fight back.

Or let’s look at my friend John. John is exceptionally talented – as many people are. He works hard and he is diligent and he is passionate. But as a member of the jilted generation, he has been left unemployed. He has been thrown onto George Osborne’s scrapheap of the ‘undeserving': poor people, disabled people, young people. His plight is the plight of my generation – a fate spelled out in unemployment stats and on a million rems of recycled job applications and a million fading dreams. After months spent searching for work that isn’t there, days carefully filling in forms and updating CVs that end up in the trash, John gets depressed. Nothing knocks his confidence like unemployment. The evidence tells us that joblessness kills. It causes stress, it breaks down communities. And this too leaves people imprisoned – trapped by their own self doubt and self loathing and depression.

In the recent stories about Mark Stone – the police officer who infiltrated the climate movement – we saw the lengths to which the police are willing to go to gain intelligence on peaceful protesters, and to attempt to intimidate us out of activism. And that may be what they are trying to do here. But it won’t work. It won’t work because we know that protesting does work – we remember that every intitution of organised justice in this country had to be fought for. It won’t work because people are beginning to see that these cuts have nothing to do with fixing the economy and everything to do with right wing ideology. And it won’t work because a day in the police cells is nothing compared to a lifetime trapped as a prisoner in your own home. It is nothing to what they are doing to Martha, and what they are doing to John. It is nothing compared to the damage that these cuts will do to our communities and our friends and our lives.

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5 Responses to “A night in the cells is nothing to a lifetime imprisoned by cuts”

  1. David CoveneyNo Gravatar
    March 29th, 2011 @ 11:31 am

    What a sad story.

    On two fronts. The sad stories of those who could be badly affected by the cuts is one.

    The other is that in carrying out ‘direct action’ like storming a shop the argument is being lost on people who might otherwise be sympathetic. Maybe I wouldn’t be reading this story if it wasn’t for that action, but I’m not the person whose mind you need to change. You need to change the minds of the wealthy and the powerful, and getting involved in action that attacks them isn’t going to work.

    In fact, you’re raising the stakes. You’re saying that trespass is fine and acceptable if it justifies the means. Which is sad because if it’s acceptable for you then it’s acceptable for those whose moral position you dislike. Think about what that could mean in the longer term.

    Peaceful protest is important. Big protests in large cities, like the largely peaceful 26th of March protest (but ideally MINUS the attention seekers), and small protests in small towns where you can hand out pamflets and inform people of the problems caused by cuts.

  2. Paul MorrisNo Gravatar
    March 29th, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    Thoughtful non-violent direct action has led to change for the better on many occasions for our society and the actions of UK Uncut generally fall into this category. Thus I commend Adam and the hundreds of others who have the courage and conviction to take such actions.

    I wonder whether the Met Police’s decision to arrest 145 peaceful protesters outside Fortnum and Mason was influenced by their desire to be able to announce 200 arrests to a baying corporate media.

    Non violent direct action protesters are easier to arrest and possibly deemed a greater threat to the status quo than the ‘black bloc’ anarchists, whose embrace of pointless vandalism arguably makes them useful idiots for the maintenance of right wing ideology.

    It is likely that vested interests will seek to taint the image of UK Uncut by associating them with the violent actions of others.

    Meanwhile it seems Adam has another photo in our media today, but this time thankfully related to a more considerate Guardian article on a treasury select committee being set up to investigate corporate tax avoidance:


  3. Ron BroxtedNo Gravatar
    March 29th, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

    Maybe those hypocrites at The Guardian should look in the mirror if they want to investigate tax avoidance.


    Why *is* the British Left so damn good at hypocrisy ?

  4. penguinNo Gravatar
    March 29th, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

    @Paul Morris

    But what is violence. When the ‘black bloc’ broke windows at an empty branch of HSBC, was that ‘pointless vandalism?’ Nobody was hurt, and the only people in real danger of getting hurt were those in the way of swinging police batons.

    I took part in closing down a Vodafone shop in a very ‘non-violent’ way. We closed it for about an hour. Nobody was hurt, and the shop lost an hour of trading.

    The HSBC was shut down for several days, the company will face extra costs, and nobody was hurt.

    I think the bigger issue might arguable be who sets the media narrative. Will activists allow the mainstream media to do it – and thus we will follow the narrative of ‘good protesters’ and ‘bad protesters’. Or will all of us activists stand together and recognise a diversity of tactics?

    I found this blog on the violence against property (by people conducting ‘pointless vandalism’) versus the violence against society (by corporations) interesting. http://www.newint.org/blog/2011/03/28/just-who-is-being-viole/

  5. Chris FergusonNo Gravatar
    April 21st, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    I note the above is not Ron Broxted but Derek Haslam, ex Met disgraced and now thrown off the Daily Torygraph for trolling.