Thousands Protest at Tory Conference

Jacob Hewlett Case, Katie Lee & James Porter Campbell

Sunday the 2nd October proved to be a historic day for Manchester as an estimated 30,000 protestors marched past the Conservative Party Conference in opposition to government spending cuts. Members of the National Union of Teachers, National Union of Students, Unison and Unite flooded the streets of central Manchester, blowing whistles and horns and chanting “Tories Out” as the conference opened at Manchester Central Conference Centre.

An estimated 4000 students joined a feeder march outside the University of Manchester including representatives from the NUS, Socialist Worker Students and Anti-Cuts groups. The mixed atmosphere of anger, frustration and enthusiasm was reflected in the creativity of the student protest, with MMUs’ “Carnival Against Cuts” group carrying a giant figure of a vulture, representing cuts to the arts.

Around 100 protesters broke off from the march to begin a planned occupation of Albert Square. The occupation, called for by the Occupy MCR group, aims to remain in the square for the duration of the conference, and turn the space outside Manchester town hall into an “open forum of fair and honest debate”, one organiser proclaimed. The demonstrators defied the downpour, gathering under hastily erected tarpaulins and alternating from joyfully applauding passionate speeches, to dancing enthusiastically to an eclectic mix of Reggae, Dubstep and Punk.

 “David Cameron not welcome”

Despite a large presence, the police in the square took a “hands off” approach, only intervening to block a group of protestors who had started heckling attendees of a fringe meeting between the Conservative party and local councillors. No effort had been made at time of writing to remove the protestors from the square.

The march, that took protestors through Deansgate, Portland Street and Oxford Street, lead eventually to a TUC organised rally in First Street, within earshot of the conference centre. Here union leaders took the stage, speaking against the cuts to public services, pensions and education. Central Manchester Labour MP Tony Lloyd declared “David Cameron is not welcome in this city”, which received loud cheers from the crowd. Organisers praised the success of the march.

Greater Manchester Police called in extra support from nearby forces to help police the march, stating that they would take “robust action” against any troublemakers. The day passed mostly without incident, with police stating that they had not made any arrests.

The Conservative party conference will remain in the city until Wednesday and is estimated to bring a £27 million boost to the local economy.

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