Often, I read about disability rights activists in other countries and marvel at how fortunate we are as disability rights activists here in the United States.
We, as a movement, are treated remarkably well by police, especially if we're one of the respectable groups doing a march or rally.
I am a member of ADAPT, which needs no introduction when it comes to disability rights groups. We are well-known, in fact, most known, for our willingness to do non-violent civil disobedience, up to, and including arrest, in our fight for disability rights and justice. Back in the day, police brutality happened fairly often to those of us who walked on our hind legs (because we were presumed to be leaders) and those of us in wheelchairs who wouldn't shut up.
These days, police violence is extremely rare at ADAPT actions. Yes, some cops may try intimidating some of us, but they rarely go past that.
What would happen if police treated us like they do activists in other countries? Hell, what would we do if we were treated like the civil rights activists of the '60s or the Black Lives Matter activists of today?
As someone who got her ass kicked on the regular by cops in the early days of ADAPT, activists in other countries are truly kickass and badass for what they are willing to go through! We disability rights folks here are spoiled. We compare ourselves to civil rights folks knowing full well that we didn't go through a tenth of what they did on the front lines and in the trenches! We don't go through a tenth of what disability rights activists in other countries go through. We have it very easy in comparison. How many of us would put ourselves on the line if cops behaved here like they do in other countries or as they do here to BLM folks who protest?
We here are fortunate that we don't go through what other activists go through. Sure, occasionally, we get cops in riot gear and gloves at ADAPT actions, but I went to a BLM protest in Denver and was literally millimeters away from cops with GUNS taller than me and nightsticks that came to my shoulders! They fired teargas at us AFTER we dispersed. As I was pickin' 'em up and puttin' 'em down trying to get out of Dodge, feeling like the world's biggest coward, I wondered what we in ADAPT would do if we were faced with that (or worse) kind of police violence? I know that I was scared to death! We were nonviolent, but they came at us with military gear and were prepared to use it.
So, ADAPT, and other disability rights activists, what of it? If real violence was used against us, what would you do? Would you put it on the line? Would you continue to fight nonviolently for freedom? Are we that desperate? Do our rights matter that much to us?
I'm NOT trying to shame anyone. Many of us can't get in the trenches. Many folks do activism online and endure trolls who bully and try to destroy them. They're badass because they stick around and don't give up. Some of us can only do things behind the scenes, but that doesn't make us any less badass.
My question is for those of us disability activists here in the United States who can and do go into the trenches because whether we realize it or like it or not, we have it easy. I ask because at the rate things are going, we're going to start enduring what others already are. If we are smart, we will consider this carefully and prepare for it. If we want to be treated equally, we'd better understand that equality means both the good and the bad, and one of these days, the cops are going to decide to stop giving us special treatment and treat us like other groups.
If we are prepared, we will survive. If not, who can say?
So, again, I ask: Would you continue to put it on the line of the cops got real with us? I know what my answer would be.