MARCH FOR EUROPE: A SPOONIE’S PERSPECTIVE

by Alice Thomson

The 25th March marked the 60-year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The Treaty of Rome gave birth to the European Union as we know it today. Its intention was to create stronger ties, a common market, and better relations between the European countries. In the wake of two devastating world wars, it was hoped this union would create long-lasting peace and prosperity. It is this Union that our government is hell-bent on throwing away with the ‘hard’ Brexit that Theresa May’s clean and complete break from the Union promises. It’s thought that this ‘hard’ Brexit will greatly hurt the UK, causing economic turmoil and uncertainty for the future of mainland Europeans living in the UK. There are many other possible negative outcomes from a ‘hard’ Brexit, but the reality of Britain’s future, is in truth, unknown.

On the 23rd June 2016, the people of Britain were given the opportunity to decide if the UK should stay or leave the European Union. The question put forward was simple; Remain, or Leave. It did not ask how the voter would like to leave or put forward any specific terms. It did not state what the possible backlash might be if the UK was to leave. The electorate had to base their decision on the pre-referendum rhetoric, which was soon outed as lies and half-truths. I think it would be fair to say that few voted for the type of Brexit May is proposing. May has claimed that she is respecting “the will of the people” with her actions and has said that anyone who disagrees with her is not being democratic. I’m not completely clear on how she knows what the “will of the people” is based on a Leave/Remain vote. It is certainly not my ‘will’, and it is not the ‘will’ of the 100,000 people that marched in protest of Brexit on Saturday 25th March, either.

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March for Europe 2016. Image credit: Neil Hall

I’ve lost my thread, and I explain why. I have spent the last hour trying to find the evidence that backs up my claim of 100,000 people attending the march. I cannot find the figures anywhere. Most news reports tens of thousands, giving an estimate between 25,000 and 100,000; which I’m sure you can tell is a laughably vague figure. I’ve even heard that there were 120,000 present, but I can’t seem to find a truly reliable source for the figures – not even via the Metropolitan Police website. And this leads me to my next point. The way in which the march has been reported has been neglectful in the least. The BBC, in particular, are under scrutiny for not covering the story in any meaningful way, and even refuses to disclose the number of complaints it has received regarding this.

To add insult to injury, other areas of the media are still portraying those with Pro-EU sentiments as ‘Remoaners’, or ‘snowflakes’, and claim that marching days after the terror attack on Westminster is disrespectful. This is despite the fact that the march held a minute’s silence for those affected by the attack, and even brought flowers for the officers working and to place in memory of those who had lost their lives.  The response from the public to these articles, in general, is also very negative, where many suggest those pro-Europe are wasting their time and should shut up or move to mainland Europe. It seems people have forgotten what democracy is. It’s not a race, with winners and losers; it’s a discourse where everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their opinion.

I find it extremely disrespectful to be told that I am not only wasting my time, but that my opinions and actions have no value.

As a disabled person who suffers with chronic pain as well as being prone to dislocations which cause acute pain, I have to be very careful with pacing and can be restricted in what activities I can do. It was of my opinion that this march was important. Important not only for the future of Britain, but also my own future. So, I went to the march, knowing that it would cause me great physical pain. And it did. I find it extremely disrespectful to be told that I am not only wasting my time, but that my opinions and actions have no value. I, and others like me, could never attend an event like this light-heartedly. We’re not just going on a jolly! Months of planning and preparation went into my attendance of this march, and I definitely wasn’t the only disabled person there.

If any fellow Spoonie wants to join any future marches or protest, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Firstly, go in a group. It is important that you have at least a couple of people around you that know you well and understand your condition. If you get into any difficulties, they can support you and communicate with others, and can get you medical assistance if needed. They can also remind you of any strategies you have to help with pain or other issues. In the middle of a flare-up it can be easy to forget these strategies. Another reason to have these people around is to give them things to carry. It’s important to bring supplies to help you through the day, but it’s equally important to be mindful of the weight of what you are carrying.

Secondly, take with you a portable ‘flare-up box’. In my home, I have a box dedicated to pain management relief and other such things to help me through a flare-up. I condensed this down to a wash-bag for the march to take with me. It included things like medication, but also splints and supportive garments, as well as heat packs, cooling gel, a foldable walking stick and a foldable perching stool. Make sure you have plenty of water and high energy food. It can be a long day and you need to be hydrated. Chronic fatigue can be exacerbated, so high energy food can help give you a boost.

Thirdly, research the event, the route the march will take, and the expected schedule. Some marches can be very long, and often offer a shorter version for those unable to walk the full distance. I decided to participate in the full 2-mile march in London, mainly to see how I would fair, and it was very tough. If I had taken the shorter route I would not be experiencing such a flare-up as I am.

And finally, if you wish to take any banners or signs, be mindful. Make sure they are easy to hold and light in weight. It may be easier to wear a printed t-shirt or something tied to your bag. Check the weather also, as if it’s windy this can make sign-holding very difficult.

Featured image credit: Martin Godwin

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