I'm exhausted from the trip over to Manchester to join the anti-cuts march today. At lease we didn't have to go to London again, at last a Northern demo! It felt wonderful to be with so many young people from the Woodcraft folk, as we headed over by train to Victoria Station. For many, it was their first demo, but they were prepared. They had arrest advice and kettlechips incase they were kettled!
It was a long walk over to the Manchester Museum along Oxford Road. I met many groups of young people wondering if they had gone the right way 'It can't be this far out can it?' was the usual cry. But it was, and then, even worse, the demo was set to walk far out of the city towards Pratts Park.
The Police vehicle at the front barked the order; 'The march will commence at 11.30am', and it did, as if by clockwork. A breakaway group of about 500 protesters headed for the city centre, fed up of being told what to do by the police and NUS stewards.
I gave up after an hour. It can feel pointless marching in off, shouting in areas that nobody would ever hear us. Can you imagine if the protesters in Tunis had headed out into the desert to shout their slogans to the dunes?
The good natured protest was a peaceful introduction to many of the new folk, but ultimately, dividing the protests between Manchester and London weakened the voice of the movement. Rallies far from the city populations are a disaster in terms of getting your point across, and only serve to accept the paranoia that left should not be allowed in our city centre (which must be allowed to remain a place for consumers to do their thing without disruption)
Good news ahead though. On March 26th will see the biggest show of force against a government since 2 million marched against the war in 2003. We need to put much effort into making that event a success, as well ensuring that unlike the Iraq war, this is one battle we do not intend to let the government get away with.