People came out in force to protest during the Tory Party conference. On Sunday 1 October, the People’s Assembly organised national demonstrations in Manchester. However, the protest wasn’t without incident, as cops stopped an entire coach of activists coming from London. They used the excuse of having ‘intelligence’ on them to search the vehicle – and racially profiled one demonstrator in the process.
People’s Assembly: marching on the Tories
Year after year, the People’s Assembly has organised actions during the Tory Party conference. 2023 was no different. The group is staging a Festival of Resistance in Manchester – including workshops, entertainment, and debates. However, the centrepiece of the People’s Assembly’s organising was a National Demonstration on 1 October.
People gathered at 12pm to march through central Manchester. Many different groups were represented. The trade unions present included the National Education Union (NEU); National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT); GMB; and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union:
A fantastic turnout in Manchester today, as we joined thousands in protesting the #ToryPartyConference! 🪧🚩#ToriesOut 👉🚪 #ToriesBrokeBritain 💔🏚️@PaulMaccaGMB @alanp1771 @K28Gmb @84Gmb @AsdaGMB_NWI @GMBatUU @gmbx02 @GMB_S70branch @TUCNorthWest @NIC_ICTU @JacobMason… pic.twitter.com/OUeYdwfWg9
— GMB Union North West & Irish (@GMB_union_NWI) October 1, 2023
— Cheshire East NEU (@neucheshireeast) October 1, 2023
Thousands of people also came out to join them:
Thousands of people march through the city for a national demonstration during the #CPC23. The #protest which was organised by The Peoples Assembly are demanding changes ranging from ending the cost of living crisis and defending the NHS. #Manchester, UK October 01st 2023 pic.twitter.com/4ZtuNnCAOm
— Andy Barton (@Andybartonphoto) October 1, 2023
Fill the streets of #Manchester this Sunday
— SE London Peoples Assembly (@PeoplesSELondon) September 27, 2023
Campaign group Stand Up To Racism had a heavy presence:
— Stand Up To Racism (@AntiRacismDay) October 1, 2023
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) also had members at the march:
Well done to everyone today in Manchester great be part of a caring Family opposing the Tories actions pic.twitter.com/ZaleTWsMtA
— KEVIN O DUBHAIGAN (@G0UDG) October 1, 2023
And people travelled from across the UK to be there:
Full 56seater coach departed from Glasgow to join demo @ #ToryPartyConference in Manchester today, bringing trade unionists, students & asylum seekers defeated the Nazis in Erskine, all ready to #ResistRacism and tell Tories that #RefugeesWelcome 🔥🔥🔥 #UnitedAgainstTheTories pic.twitter.com/BOr1BHpMrj
— Stand Up to Racism – Scotland (@SUTRScotland) October 1, 2023
Bristol & Dorset saying scrap the prison barge #RefugeesWelcome
— Stand Up To Racism (@AntiRacismDay) October 1, 2023
Labour mustn’t ‘entrench’ Tory policies
At the end of the protest, crowds heard from speakers who highlighted the Tories’ many misdemeanors. As the Morning Star reported, NEU general secretary Daniel Kebede told the assembled masses:
The spending on the school estate — the reason for the crumbling schools — is just a third of what the Office for Government Property says is needed.
[Education Secretary] Gillian Keegan says the children prefer porter cabins. But it’s not the children of Eton or Harrow that have to endure them.
Kebede said the Tories at the conference must:
listen to the voices of teachers, to the parents, and to the children who bear the weight of this burden. But if you don’t listen, we will make you listen on our picket lines and through protest and we will push back through any sense of decline.
He also issued a warning for the increasingly right-wing Labour Party:
We do not want the unfair and damaging policies of the party in blue to be entrenched by the party in red. Our children are an investment, they are not a burden.
Cops’ new rationale under the Tories: stop the coaches
However, the People’s Assembly demo wasn’t without its problems. Greater Manchester police stopped a coach carrying activists that were coming up from London – apparently because “intelligence” told the cops that the protesters were going to cause trouble:
Our coach has been intercepted by over two dozen police officers who searched our coach and passengers on “intelligence” that our actions would risk the safety of the Tory party conference.
A waste of public resources if there ever was one pic.twitter.com/qBFrNEoGSR
— SE London Peoples Assembly (@PeoplesSELondon) October 1, 2023
Campaign groups including Keep Our NHS Public were on board:
KONP coach heading for Manchester, stopped by the police who had ‘reason to believe they were going to disrupt the Tory party conference’
Please RT to spread the word, that legitimate protest is dead under the Tories pic.twitter.com/K561boCqVL
— Keep Our NHS Public (@keepnhspublic) October 1, 2023
South East London People’s Assembly told the Canary that cops held the coach for an hour. All they took was a flare and some marker pens. However, as Ellen Clifford from DPAC noted, the only person they searched was a Brown woman:
Coach from London 2 @pplsassembly pulled over by Greater Manchester police. Only person search was a woman from a racialised minority. #ToriesOut @paulapeters2 @PaddySitsDown @mark_dunk @LindaBurnip @MykeyLorimer pic.twitter.com/PQ5uJEFTUb
— Ellen Clifford (@EllenClifford1) October 1, 2023
The cops stopped the bus under the Public Order Act. Recent amendments to the act allow cops to stop anyone they think might cause serious disruption. Of course, the this argument is clearly nonsense when it comes to the People’s Assembly.
The Canary sat in on a meeting for the demo prior to the event, where organisers rightly highlighted that People’s Assembly protests never have any issues with police. The group’s A-to-B marches are always arranged in conjunction with local councils and cops. So, it’s bizarre – yet perhaps telling – that even the politest of protesters are now police targets:
This is what the anti protest law looks like
Don’t let the government stop you @1kilroywashere @mikecoulson48 @RandolphTrent @BadPutty @vamroses @charlotteh71 @Dis_PPL_Protest @MrTopple @RachelCDailey @Rachael_Swindon @johnmcdonnellMP @LauraPidcock https://t.co/q7UtWH5TbB
— paula peters (@paulapeters2) October 1, 2023
Other that this, it appeared the demo went off without a hitch. At this point, it’s looking unlikely that the Tories will win the next general election – although a Labour victory will hardly be a cause for celebration. However, the People’s Assembly’s action served as an important reminder of the strength of feeling that exists against the Conservative Party – and an example of how people can still organise collectively in the UK.
Featured image via South East London People’s Assembly – screengrab
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