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Thousands mark anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre and issue call for radical political change

THOUSANDS of people marched in Manchester today to mark the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre and heard calls for radical political change.

Trade unionists and campaigners gathered in Piccadilly Gardens to march with banners raised to St Peter’s Square, where a rally commemorated the horrific events of August 16 1819.

That day, tens of thousands of textile workers and their families walked to St Peter’s Field, where the square is now, from industrial communities in and around Manchester to meet peacefully and call for parliamentary reform.

Magistrates ordered cavalry to charge the 60,000-strong crowd, leaving 15 people dead and hundreds injured.

At today’s rally, which was organised by Oldham trades council and The Word newspaper, speakers addressed the cheering crowd from the Fire Brigade Union’s campaigning fire engine.

Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union president Ian Hodson said that in the current Tory leadership contest, fewer people are voting than had the right to participate in parliamentary elections at the time of Peterloo.

He said that “people have the right to food – not to foodbanks” and called for the abolition of reviled zero-hours contracts, which leave those on them with no guarantee of work or wages.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn received rousing cheers when he expressed solidarity with workers fighting back against exploitative employers, including members of the RMT, Aslef and TSSA unions involved in strike campaigns on the railways.

He rejected government regulation of privatised utilities such as water and energy and said that nationalisation and public ownership should be implemented.

Mr Corbyn also criticised media reports blaming “wage inflation” for the cost-of-living crisis, pointing to profiteering and soaring executive salaries and bonuses as the real cause.

He said: “We need an immediate wealth tax, with our energy, water, rail and mail in public hands to bring down bills and help us build a fairer society of peace, justice and shared wealth.

“We can, and must, provide a radical and hopeful alternative to the misery faced by millions — a healthy planet and an economy run for and by the many, not the few.”

Former Labour MP Laura Pidcock, chairwoman of the People’s Assembly, spoke out against government plans for further anti-trade union legislation.

An in an attack on Labour’s parliamentary performance, she said: “We have an opposition that does not oppose.”

Radical film director Ken Loach quoted from Shelley’s epic poem Masque of Anarchy, which was written about the Peterloo Massacre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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