For several weeks, as well as the majority of Poles in the country and abroad, we have been observing the course of the RON (Parents of Disabled Persons’ association) protest in the parliament. We watched it with growing disbelief and indignation. Our surprise and anger were not caused by the demands of the protesters, because it is obvious that the state has a duty of support of the vulnerable, but the way in which they were treated by the government. Further restrictions (from the ban on walks and the use of showers to a curtain “hiding” the strikers, to switching off the only lift available to the wheelchair-bound protesters), increasingly contemptuous statements by PiS (Law and Justice party) politicians about protesters, prolonged waiting times for a “human gesture” from the government… We have read, commented and forwarded information reaching us – that’s as much as we could have been so far away from Warsaw. However, when the ‘Supermother’s Day’ campaign planned by the National Women’s Strike began to spread to more cities in Poland, it became obvious that we, too, here in London, should express our support for the parents of persons with disabilities struggling with such enormous determination.
The convocation of most of the London protests is preceded by a quick consultation of Polish opposition organisations. Many times we have been together in matters important to all of us, so it happened this time: the initiative was taken over by KOD UK, and joined by Razem (“Together” party), Nowoczesna (“Modern” party), and feminist groups Dziewuchy London and Farsa, each supporting a protest to the best of their abilities. The time and place of the demonstration was quickly and spontaneously agreed, without unnecessary discussions about who would speak and in what order.
On May 26, Polish Mother’s Day, from 3:00 pm, people upset at the development of the situation in the country started gathering outside the Polish Embassy in London. The same message came from all speakers: great admiration and recognition for the families of disabled people for the fight for a decent life for their relatives – an ovation from the gathered after reading the list of protesters in the Sejm was an expression; condemnation of the government’s actions – not only for refusing to fulfil the most important demands of the RON, but for the disgraceful treatment of the protesters, with particular emphasis on the cruelty of Marshal Kuchciński and the guard under his command; harsh criticism of the ruling priorities, for which their own rewards, monuments, shooting ranges and benches are more important than the needs of the most forgotten social group.
During the protest, signatures were collected for a petition regarding the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed by Poland in 2012 but never effectively executed. The final accent was the reminder of the upcoming local elections, during which all citizens will have the opportunity to issue ruling to the rulers. A photo commemorating the event ended the official part of the protest.
On May 27, after 40 grueling days, the RON occupation protest in the Sejm was suspended. The question arises: is it a win or a loss?
The postulate regarding granting a PLN 500 rehabilitation allowance has not been implemented, so the financial situation of the families of the disabled will not improve. Through its actions towards RON, the PiS government lost the moral right to refer to Christian values or family institutions as the most important; in our eyes, the party with justice only failed in its name not only because of the test of government but also of humanity.
The recent signing by the opposition parties of the obligation to implement the RON demands gives hope for the future. Withstanding in the inhuman conditions of the strike in Sejm to the NATO convention, the disabled achieved something else – thanks to them, many foreign diplomats and journalists saw the true face of this power with their own eyes.
So did we all win or lose? You can answer this question yourself.