Manchester became the latest city to join the wave of anti-austerity action as thousands joined a protest initiated by two local residents. Report by Penny Hicks
Two young Manchester men, Liam Callacher and Mike Atkinson, woke up the day after the election and decided to voice their dismay at the thought of another five years of austerity and the terrible impact it would have. With first-hand experience of the last five years on their own families and friends, they decided to hold a protest.
“We wanted to get people together to talk, to listen and work together. The Manchester People’s Assembly has been incredible and we couldn’t have done it without them. We had 3,000 people on face book, met Penny (Convener Manchester People’s Assembly) for a coffee and the organisation took off from there!”
Around 3,000 joined the protest that took on a festival atmosphere with speeches and music. When asked if it was their first protest,the roar from the vast majorityof the crowd answered yes! People queued for coach tickets to the mass People's Assembly demo in London on 20th June. Those who knew they couldn't make it to London donated generously, with £1,200 collected for transport. Liam, Mike and the People’s Assembly were keen to offer concrete practical help – a collection for food and toiletries was inundated, with deliveriesbeing bicycled from the protest to the Homeless Protest Campin St Anne’s Square. Another £600 was collected in cash and a member of the crowd donated a cheque for £1,000, saying he was homeless two years ago.
These are all signs of the birth of a mass movement, as opposition to the new Tory government grows.
Musicians got the huge crowd clapping and dancing in a great foretaste of June 20 in Parliament square. Media coverage on Russia Today news, ITV Granada, NorthWest Tonight and live tweeting by the Manchester Evening News were all positive, with the MEN carrying an article before the event and Manchester What’s On promoting it as a bank holiday event!
Manchester shoppers swelled numbers over the three hours of the protest with people drifting in and out of the event. The transport already booked for the June demo is virtually full and the People’s Assembly is putting out an appeal for more funds to subsidise more coaches.
Saturday showed the potential both for a huge national demo against the Tories, and for a mass campaign which must spread to every area of Manchester and the North west if we are to defeat government policies.