by Martin Odoni

Today is the anniversary of probably the most notorious date in the history of Manchester – 16th August 1819. On that day, St. Peter’s Field – St. Peter’s Square today – at the heart of the city became the site of a bloodbath, as the ruthless Yeomanry of the Hanoverian Prince Regent attacked a large but peaceful crowd of protesters, killing at least fifteen (probably far more than that, given there was no medical care available for anyone receiving injuries), and injuring hundreds more.

With grim humour, this act of state terror by Britain against its own citizens, an act the British Establishment would pompously condemn as “evil” if any other Government committed it, was given the gruesome label Peterloo, to reflect how many of the innocent protesters had recently served in the armed forces, suffering terrible hardships to protect their country during the Napoleonic Wars. What, the name was quietly asking, does it say about any country that treats its loyal defenders with such barbarity?

On Sunday, the closest weekend day to the anniversary, thousands of people gathered and marched in central Manchester to remember those who were murdered by their own masters that terrible day, and to demand the rehabilitation of what passes for ‘democracy’ in a modern Britain that has turned into a caricature of its 19th-century self thanks to forty years of neoliberal politics.

It was another exceptionally hot day, so it is something of a wonder that there was such a positive atmosphere. Here are some images from the day (many tanks to Andrea Faulkner for some of these); –

The Word Newspaper was one of the main organisers of the event
The crowds start to assemble early in Piccadilly Gardens
I was supposed to be one of the people carrying this banner. However, due to a cock-up in the timings, I had to nip to the station to escort a couple of the guests to Piccadilly Gardens, and then the start of the march was moved forwards, and so I got left behind. Oh well, it was probably a bit too hot for marching anyway.
From the march, I believe the photo was taken by Laura Pidcock.

At the end of the march around the city centre, the full rally on St. Peter’s Square itself. Early arrivals gather; –

Other events followed the rally, including a series of panel seminars at the Friends Meeting House on the other side of the Library.

Totoai Mativavarira, myself, and Clare Bickle, at Friends Meeting House, united against the neoliberal world. If you look closely at our foreheads, you will see we were actually all sweating buckets due to the heatwave, but that was never going to stop us taking part.