The City of Manchester welcomes the Labour party conference
Front of the march
Flyer for Brize Norton demo 2nd December
War is not our language
Defend the Raytheon 9
The well-travelled Swindon Stop the War banner
No trident replacement
Some of the placards
Take the arms companies out of government
Peace tax resister Robin Brookes
It’s more than Blair that has to go
Bloody fool Blair
Ground all planes now
Foreign holidays kill
Marching past the City of Peace sign
No warmongers in no. 10
Despite the banner over the door of the town hall saying “The City of Manchester welcomes the Labour Party Annual Conference”, here were sixth thousand people who most certainly didn’t welcome it.
The march set off, gradually filing out of Albert Square, past a sign proclaiming Manchester to be a “City of Peace”, down Lower Mosley Street, and past the GMEX centre where the conference is being held.
Besides the placards we’ve come to know and love, such as the one declaring George Bush to be #1 Terrorist, there were two new mass-produced placards. On one, David Gentleman had once again deployed his trademark bloodstain, this time as the “O” in the words “Time to go”. The other, bearing the Respect party branding and the signature of anti-war artist Leon Kuhn, bore the same words, but this time the “O” was made from an image of Tony Blair being pushed down a waste-disposal unit, with the added strapline “and take war and privatisation with you”.
Judging by the number of Lebanese flags in evidence, the recent massacre of over 1,000 people in Lebanon has not been forgotten, neither has the occupation and oppression of Palestine. Other placards called for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, whilst others said “no” to the replacement of Trident nuclear weapons, and called for people to help “Block the Builders” at Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermarston in Berkshire .
Other, more tangential placards drew attention to climate change, the 9/11 truth movement, more constructive things we could be spending the war budget on, and the harm our consumerist lifestyle does to the planet and its people.
As we passed under the railway bridge near Deansgate Station, I was surprised to see an official steward asking people to sit down (normally they tell people not to sit down when spontaneous sit-downs happen), until I realised that this was the planned die-in.
After a few minutes, the march moved off again, and as we turned the corner into Deansgate, I caught my first and only glimpse of the samba band, who for some reason were still sitting down, and unfortunately weren’t playing at that moment.
Having started almost right at the back of the march, I managed to work my way forward, trying to photograph as many of the more original placards as possible, when I spotted the giant statue of Tony Blair, complete with bloodstains, Pinnochio-style nose and Hitler salute, last seen at the first ever demonstration at RAF Brize Norton last year .
Arriving back in Albert Square for the rally, I found that I was unable to stay to listen to any of the speeches, because it was time to dash off and catch my train home. In our modern, privatised, deregulated and fragmented public transport system, it seems that it is necessary to leave Manchester at 4:15pm in order to arrive in Swindon just after 11pm.
On the way home, a chance encounter with an old friend who was returning from watching a football match, reminded me that for every person who made the journey to Manchester that day, there are others who completely agree that this “war on terror” is all about lies, greed and oil, but who don’t care much for walking about with placards, preferring instead to (for example) watch football matches.
Thus goes the account of the most long-distance day trip I have ever made: twelve hours of travelling, five trains, one coach, two busses, a leisurely walk round Manchester with sixty thousand protestors, lots of photos, one chance encounter, and an interminable number of reminders to read the safety information on the cards placed about the train, to take my belongings with me when leaving the train, and to mind the gap between the train and the platform edge.
As the Labour party conference opens, and the politicians insist that it will focus on policy debate rather than on Blair’s departure time, Swindon South’s ever-loyal Blairite MP Anne Snelgrove has been insisting that people in Swindon don’t care when Blair goes , only to be firmly rebuked a few days later .
 First ever demonstration at RAF Brize Norton, April 2005: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/04/309720.html
 Residents unmoved by Blair's quit date: http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/swindonnewsheadlines/display.var.910776.0.residents_unmoved_by_blairs_quit_date.php
 Blair’s triumphs exposed as sham http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/swindonletters/display.var.925276.0.blairs_triumphs_exposed_as_sham.php
Saturday 4th November is the international day of climate protest. A day of events in London includes a cycle protest in the morning, a rally outside the US embassy, and a march to the “I-Count” mass gathering in Trafalgar Square. See http://www.campaigncc.org or http://www.stopclimatechaos.org/
On Saturday 2nd December there will be a national demonstration at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Brize is the departure and arrival point for all the British soldiers serving in Iraq, and was also used to refuel US transport planes delivering weapons to Israel during the recent bombing of Lebanon.
More coverage of the Time to Go demonstration
BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/5373128.stm (see also their video report, via the link “Protesters on the streets of Manchester” in the top right corner)