Access no areas: the day wheelchair activists stopped the traffic | Letters

Prof Gerry Leavey remembers a 1990s protest in London’s Oxford Street – which ended up as a courtroom farce

Your feature on the BBC TV drama Then Barbara Met Alan (Let’s storm Parliament! The punks who risked their lives to fix ableist Britain, 11 March) reminded me of my first outing as an able-bodied activist for the Campaign for Accessible Transport in 1992, when we blocked Oxford Street to a mixed reception – but mostly to howls from enraged drivers.

It took an hour for the police to arrive and, of course, when they did, mindful of the negative publicity in lifting people in wheelchairs into police wagons, they first bundled me off to the nearest police station. Within a couple of hours, they nabbed everybody else – wheelchair user or otherwise.

A court appearance was arranged for that afternoon at Marlborough Street magistrates court. Picture the scene: two dozen people in wheelchairs, and no wheelchair access to the court! A farce ensued as court officials struggled to carry people into court. Gareth Peirce was the solicitor that day. She was wonderful. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the case against all of us was quietly dropped.
Prof Gerry Leavey
Belfast

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