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(en) UK, Manchester, A tale of two demos some police horses and a grand day out on Saturday 29/3/03

From ManchesterOldham AF <anarchist_federation@yahoo.co.uk>
Date Sun, 30 Mar 2003 15:08:58 +0200 (CEST)


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What began out as a heavily controlled and marshalled
anti-war demo in Manchester with a high number of
SWP/ANL ended up as something completely different.
And wasn?t it a lot more fun!

The demo set off from Platt Fields quite a way out
from the city centre aiming to meet with another march
from Cheetham Hill on Oxford Road. The march through
Rusholme was supported strongly by passers by,
shopkeepers and drivers with a friendly atmosphere.

At this stage, knowing they were well in control, the
police were almost pleasant as long as people did as
they were told, keeping to the right side of the road
and not leafleting stationary drivers. The initial,
well publicised, aim was to demonstrate outside the
BBC, criticising them for their censored dishonest
reporting of the Iraq war. Both groups, about 300-400
in total stopped outside the BBC building which was
surrounded by police, some from the Tactical Aid Unit.
The crowd sat down and blocked the road. Again the
police were not that bothered because this was
expected and they were able to keep traffic moving
around the march through the side streets. They were
still in control.

The crowd then walked down to the Peace Camp and I
thought that nothing more was going to happen. However
a large banner in the camp with ?Fuck Capitalism? on
it was ripped down by the cops and people started to
get angry. Interestingly, the plethora of SWP banners
had, by this time disappeared along with some of their
carriers. Funny how the marshals vanish when they
can?t control events. Whose side are they really on?

Up until this point anyone watching the demo would
have believed the shit about living in a free country
and having freedom of speech. After all, hadn?t we
been allowed to demonstrate AND block the street AND
shout AND give out leaflets AND criticise our leaders.
Gosh. What a wonderful country we live in. Nothing
like Iraq. But hang on this is not the happy ending
where everyone gets to go home and watches themselves
on the telly with a bottle of wine. First of all, none
of this was reported because the soldiers must be
supported and anti-war demos don?t mix well with
coffins. Remember Vietnam. Secondly four people were
arrested quite violently before they day was out. Not
having been arrested, I can say that what happened was
worth the agro however I can?t speak for the poor
buggers who were cuffed and chucked into the back of
the vans so I guess they feel differently. I don?t
know. But what followed was much more valuable than
the first part.

After the Peace Camp a quiet word went round to lead
off down towards Market Street without the police. We
ran off and a Stars and Stripes appeared. A man tried
to burn it. Then the police appeared with their true
colours showing. Two huge police horses, and god are
they big bastards, squashed him up against a wall
while another copper arrested him. They took their
time and because the horses were there it was almost
impossible to see what was happening. Only the state
army could take an animal that has a natural desire to
avoid people and hurting them, then turn them into a
flesh and blood trampling machine. People trying to
photograph the event were stopped. Free country???


We then walked into town to the Peace Gardens to
regroup. The police tried to corral everyone but
somehow, in nursery school they never quite realised
that a circle needs to be complete. They left a huge
gap down one side so when people realised they weren?t
stuck they simply jumped down a couple of steps and
left. It was so funny!
Now we headed for Market Street. This is a
pedestrianised area full of shoppers. Now also full of
demonstrators, coppers and bloody massive police
horses. It was a mixture like the ones they don?t let
you do in science experiments in school any more. You
know, those that go bang. Anyone left with the notion
that the police are there to do good and look after us
and find your pet dog blah blah blah must have
realised, to some extent, what a load of bullshit that
is. Babies in buggies two feet from the heels of the
horses and what for? Why? What was the big bloody
deal? Because they didn?t have control of the demo
anymore. We were doing what we wanted. A little bit of
mayhem in a normally hemmed in, consumer driven,
Saturday afternoon. That was too much for them. You
can?t let people see that they can do what they want
and get away with it. Too dangerous. So now they
started to get nastier and, admittedly, we started to
get stupid. (My paranoid side wonders if there were
coppers in the crowd. That big guy in the yellow and
black rugby shirt with short black hair stood back and
watched without joining in. Curious or what. I know he
was marching because he had caught my eye before.
Hmmm.)

Some people went down a side street which was really
narrow. It was easily blocked off by the horses.
Luckily they got away but for some reason we went back
to the gardens. This time the police sussed out the
shape of a circle (you know, complete sides etc) and
did corral a group onto the grass. The TAG, with
horses and loads of coppers kept the rest away, but
inadvertently made a great amphitheatre for their
production. Significant numbers of people who had
previously scoffed at the demo or not understood what
the police were doing started to make connections. I
spoke to several groups who realised that we do not
have the right to free speech, demonstrate or any of
other lies spun from the press and t/v. By now the
arrests were up to four, two of which were highly
visible. Noticeably, the one Asian guy arrested got a
much rougher deal than the others. The other older man
is a well-known local anarchist. His arrest caused
anger from the crowd. Age is no protection.

At this point I left although I know there were plans
for further action. No, it wasn?t perfect. Low numbers
made some action a bit hairy but much better than a
namby-pamby chant and chat marshalled demo any day.
Self organised action leads to much more thought and
understanding all round and doesn?t half piss them
off.

And the moral of the story is:
next time you see a police horse don?t give him sugar
- he might be about to trample you.

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