After wandering over from Saint Peter’s Square in Manchester, I peeked over the wall to see some builders get on with business. I see the 200th anniversary of Peterloo as an important historical event, and the Peterloo memorial structure is currently being constructed. Manchester sits in the north of our country and pride usually arises when history of my home city comes to mind.
However, one negative fact exists that’ll only frustrate people whenever thoughts of the memorial happen to appear. You could say what’s being built right now just doesn’t work in the right way. It means I and many others want the new inner-city design to be put on hold.
So, what’s the problem with it? Well, back in 1819, 18 individuals died, and hundreds of injuries were obtained at Saint Peter’s Field in Manchester. It was named in ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo that took place just four years earlier.
That year, 80,000 people turned up on 16 August to speak out as loud as they could. Consistently working hard, they believed people in the north deserved better wealth and rights from parliament. Under pressure, politicians released officials with weaponry to rebel against people at the protest – who were no doubt culprits responsible for the massacre that went on to take place.
If this memorial piece wants to lift memories of those who were hurt when searching for better rights, alterations need to be considered. The planned structure isn’t accessible for all disabled people and will immediately introduce more barriers for people disabled by society. Steps can be taken to reach its final peak by people who can walk, but wheelchair users don’t have that option.
Unwanted Ignorance, a Lack of Knowledge
Whilst designing, people planning this memorial obviously lacked knowledge or simply ignored the needs of people with impairments. A greater piece could have been designed by a disabled artist and architect, although any person or people following the needs of disabled people when completing the project would have been appreciated.
However, artist Jeremy Deller had permission to move forward with the construction. Ever since its planned appearance was first revealed, there’s no doubt his efforts haven’t impressed Manchester’s disabled community.
When comparing the way disabled people currently live and the way northern people use to 200 years ago, they share similarities. People involved in the Peterloo massacre left with impairments that day – hurt both physically and mentally. They also gathered to speak about how the government’s barriers were stopping them living the better lives they deserved.
If today’s people with power in Manchester are disregarding disabled people, they should stop and think again. To me, it’s quite viable to see the levels of respect towards those unfairly disabled from any generation need to be lifted. Those affected by the massacre aren’t going to be shown with enough respect by this memorial alone.
Ever since the structure caught the public’s eye, people have objected it via a “Peterloo Protest” profile recently created on Twitter. Comments have been made by activists and campaigners to point out elements of the planned structure that frustrate them most. It includes quotes made by quite famous individuals.
Coronation Street actress Cherylee Houston’s words aligned how I feel about the Peterloo memorial very well. The actor and campaigner said: “I am so disheartened that the city I love isn’t considering to include access as a fundamental consideration for all.”
As said many times, Manchester isn’t perfect, but its history, culture and development make me proud to be a part of it. If the memorial is built like this, I will also be disheartened and disappointed in the council’s actions.
On 6 July, Manchester City Council released a statement, explaining they’re once again talking with the artist and architect to discuss how the monument can be modified to make it more accessible. The Twitter profile also pinned an important tweet meant to be read by many:
“We accept that Manchester City Council ‘regret’ that they ‘did not give enough consideration to access issues’.
“We welcome their commitment to ‘look at how the monument can be made fully accessible’.
“If MCC continues to work with disabled people, a fitting and accessible Peterloo Memorial can be realised.
“Until then, the campaign and vigils continue, so don’t put away your placards just yet!”
Although the number of activists, campaigners and supporters sometimes seems small, the Peterloo memorial protesters have definitely gained attention. Groups and individuals interested in the Peterloo event have chosen to support disabled people’s requests.
Activism isn’t Easy
Although protests coming from more famous disability campaigners and activists were amplified via Twitter, much less is being said on the profile than in mid-June. If those fighting for our rights simply quiet down now, I’ll feel a sense of disappointment in our activism if the same structure is built.
All in all, the treatment of disabled people in the UK is one of the biggest issues we need to deal with in society. Despite this, activism looking to help us find better lives is lesser known.
And why is this? Well, financial worries do pave ways in Britain. Surveys in 2018 showed almost half of disabled people worry about being stripped of their benefits by UK Government if they become “too independent”. It’s one reason why disabled people restrict themselves from doing exercise too.
But, the worst fact of all? It’s probably that disabled people aren’t being paranoid. Supermarkets are currently keeping their cameras on customers on behalf of the DWP: the plan is to track us in public places. Many Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) are also controversially refused by the Government; that alone has cut lives short.
So, how can disabled people become better heard? How can we make it clear to society we’re consistently smothered by barriers around us?
Is Time Online a Place to Shine?
With the use of social media, people across the globe have a right to be themselves. Access to mobile phones, computers or tablets give people opportunity to browse websites, use applications and then speak their mind whenever they wish.
The Peterloo memorial protest on Twitter is an example of online activism. The Twitter profile is still up and running. How much longer will it continue? If anything, we want to amplify comments made; with a big enough back up, it may be our lead to future success.