By Jack Holmes
Sunday 4th October saw the Conservative Party conference in Manchester completely overshadowed by one of the biggest protests the North of England had seen in the last five years. The streets were filled with over 80,000 protestors, with the Labour councillor Pat Carney placing the number of protestors as high as 100,000. The day was almost entirely peacefully as protestors made their way through the city centre to a rally at the Castlefield Bowl, where a number of left wing speakers took the stage to share their messages with the disillusioned crowd.
There were worries amidst the protest that things could turn violent, however a number of tweets and statements from Greater Manchester Police confirmed that the majority of the protest had gone exactly as planned. They announced only four people had been arrested during the protest and one in the evening, all committing minor offenses including spitting at one of the journalists entering the Conservative conference.
The police were clearly prepared for any potential trouble, with tactical squads spread across the city and riot vans dotted along the march. The only real altercations I saw throughout my time with the march where those between the Anarchist supporters and a number of police near Deansgate Locks. I spoke to one of their members who was angered that the police were hindering their free speech by blocking off certain roads through the city.
However the main story that emerged from the protests was the young Tory member Colm Lock being egged whilst watching anti-austerity protestors on their march. The young Tory was easily distinguished from his conservative membership pass. Eye witnesses claim Lock smirked at the protestors and waved a copy of the Sunday Telegraph featuring Margaret Thatchers head as the cover image towards the march. In an interview shortly after the event Lock stated,
“[The] only thing I would say is that you wouldn’t catch Tories doing that to Corbyn.”
The protestors where made up of a huge variety of different causes from those angered by the Tory’s policies on NHS reform, restrictions on trade unions and the change of student maintenance grants into loans. The latter of these represented a particularly large draw as many of Manchester 90,000 student population would be effected by the change in the loan system.
The protests and events are set to continue through the week with a number of speakers including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, comedian Frankie Boyle and singer Charlotte Church all appearing at multiple events and rallies across the city. If you want to find out more about the events you can view a timetable by clicking here, or check the image below for the opportunity to add your voice to the other anti-austerity protesters.