- by Peter Lazenby
- The Guardian
- Issue #1982
More than 20,000 people took to the streets of Manchester 3rd October to voice their opposition to the Tory Party as it began its annual conference in the city.
Protesters got as close as they could to the Manchester Central Convention Complex, which was blocked off by a phalanx of police, as they marched to the thunder of a drum band.
Inside the hall, Tories such as International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan extolled the merits of “capitalism, commerce, free and fair trade,” claiming that they represent the “real rebellion against extinction” from climate change.
But outside it, marchers representing every conceivable anti-Tory campaign in Britain today showed their determination to rebel against the Tories’ dangerous agenda.
There were frequent chants of “Tory scum,” echoing Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner’s outspoken tirade against the government at the party’s own conference in Brighton last week.
There was also a focus on growing attacks against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities across Britain, with an advance guard of Travellers seated in pony-drawn traps leading the march.
The group had staged their own anti-Tory protest in the city on Saturday, showing their opposition to the Tory Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that is currently going through Parliament.
They warned that the proposed legislation – which would step up police powers to remove “unauthorised encampments” – will criminalise Travellers’ nomadic way of life and end more than 500 years of culture.
“We walk down the street and people shout: ‘Pikey – clean your teeth!,’ ” Drive2Survive organiser Sherri Smith said. “Now we are getting solidarity we did not know we had.”
She said that the Bill is an instance of ethnic cleansing, with Home Secretary Priti Patel its driving force.
Smith said that, for the group, the day that the Bill passes through Parliament will be the beginning of a new campaign of defiance against it.
Behind the ponies and traps, people marched behind a People’s Assembly Against Austerity banner declaring that marchers were “United Against the Tories.”
The team carrying the 30-metre wide banner included left-wing Labour MPs Richard Burgon and Barry Gardiner.
It took the marchers one and a half hours to wind through the streets of Manchester to the Castlefield Bowl – an amphitheatre which filled quickly as marchers arrived.
Speakers were greeted warmly, but there was a huge roar of approval for one particular contingent of marchers as they were invited onto the stage.
Social care workers – members of public service union Unison – had walked almost 40 miles to take part in the protest, setting off from Burnley in Lancashire and crossing north-west England while carrying a banner demanding justice for care workers.
They admitted that they were exhausted, but the few words of solidarity they expressed raised the crowd.
People’s Assembly national secretary Laura Pidcock said she had spoken to two young women who hadn’t come out for the march but had decided to join it anyway.
“That is exactly what we are doing,” she said. “We are growing. We are building. And we are doing it to fight the Tories.”