This article titled “Despite all the disablist prejudice, I’m fighting on” was written by Jody McIntyre, for The Guardian on Sunday 5th June 2011 13.59 Europe/London
"It’s a shame he wasn’t thrown off the roof along with that fire extinguisher!" writes one commenter. "He’s just a retard looking for attention …"
When I was interviewed on BBC News on 27 May, and before that in December 2010 following the protests that had seen me dragged out of my wheelchair by the police, I never could have imagined the sheer amount of disablist prejudice it would raise from the public. In the comments section below the YouTube videos, I am told to "stay at home and live off benefits" – the benefits that the government are currently so intent on cutting – while others complain that it is "depressing to think my taxes fund this nonsense …".
It seems that my actual existence is a very difficult reality for many to bear. That I dare to have political views which I am willing to express is even more of a burden. When some people’s denial of me even having a disability becomes so delusional that they have to suggest I am drunk in the interview, you know times are desperate. But the comments – ridiculous and often comical in their content – do expose an ugly underbelly of society. We look down upon those we perceive as weaker than us.
As with any form of discrimination, inequality is at the root of the issue. We supposedly live in a well-developed, "democratic" nation, yet, as a person in a wheelchair, I do not possess the right to travel on the underground like every other citizen. Some people think this is irrelevant and most simply do not care, because they have never experienced it. After all, if disabled people are not even afforded the same rights as every other citizen, then why should we respect them? Perhaps if it were not for my skin tone, the level of public sympathy would have been even lower.
It is not sympathy I am looking for, but justice. When I travel past Brixton police station every morning and see pictures of Sean Rigg and Ricky Bishop – just a few of the many people who have died in police custody over the last decade – it is difficult for me to expect to ever receive any kind of justice from the Metropolitan police or the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), especially when they are, ludicrously, investigating themselves.
The advice of the Metropolitan police’s disability advisory group, which has recommended that "guidance should be developed into what is the best way to move people in wheelchairs", is completely farcical. Surely any logical human being could have worked out a long time ago, without seeing video footage of a police officer pulling me out of my wheelchair and dragging me across the road, that this would not be the best way. This development has nothing to do with finding a solution, and everything to do with attempts to tidy up the severely damaged image of the Metropolitan police in the public eye.
Like with the case of Alfie Meadows, who needed emergency brain surgery to save his life after being injured at the student demonstrations and is now being charged with violent disorder by the police, my case is another example of the police trying to discredit the victims of their violent actions. However, the truth is on our side, and – luckily for me – so is video evidence. There was no video evidence when David Emmanuel, aka Smiley Culture, died from a single stab wound after a police raid on his home. For him, and many others, we will never know what really happened.
I will be appealing against the results of the investigation to the IPCC, and also have further legal action in consideration. Not because I expect an explanation from the very people who pulled me out of my chair in the first place, but because the absurdity of the complaints process should be exposed.
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