A week of resistance to the Tories is continuing in Manchester.
Students and Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) activists held protests yesterday, Monday. And thousands came to a rally headline by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the evening.
Some 1,000 people filled Manchester cathedral – with another 7,000 outside – to hear Corbyn speak.
The size of the event shows that the groundswell of support that gathered around Corbyn’s election campaign is still gaining momentum.
The rally was called by the CWU union as part of its People’s Post campaign. But Corbyn was clearly the main attraction.
Joanne Smith was one of the people who managed to get inside. She said, “I came because I’m really interested in what Jeremy Corbyn says.
“I’ve always supported Labour, but they’ve never really been left wing enough for me.
“Politics moved so far to the right in the 1980s. But Jeremy Corbyn is saying things that are more like a return to social democracy.”
Many speeches reflected the new mood of optimism that’s built around Corbyn’s victory – and called for renewed resistance.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said, “This is an exciting time for politics.
“It’s a time when people need to ask, in whose interests is the country being run? It’s a time when we can build a positive alternative to austerity.”
But it was Corbyn’s message to the rally that reflected the sense that things can be changed.
The cheers from the crowd outside the cathedral let those inside know that Corbyn had arrived before he even entered the hall.
Corbyn said, “Things have changed politically in this country quite dramatically. I’ve been elected leader of the Labour Party.
“At the rallies we had all over the summer was this wonderful combination of people. We had people of all ages, all ethnicities, all faiths united together.
“Look at the numbers here tonight. Look at the numbers outside. Look at the numbers that live in Britain who are tired of what’s going on. Who want to live in a different society.”
Earlier that day members and supporters of Dpac blockaded the entrance to the “ring of steel” erected to protect the conference venue.
They threw coloured balls at delegates and attendees, including Tory London mayor Boris Johnson and justice secretary Michael Gove, as they entered the conference.
They chanted, “Tory cuts kill” and, “Tory murderers off our streets” while rattled-looking Conservatives scuttled by.
Birmingham Dpac activist Rob Punton was one of the protesters. He told Socialist Worker, “Disabled people are being made scapegoats by the Tories. They say that we’re worthless – that there’s no place for us in society.
“The majority of people support disabled people. But the people going to this conference are making ordinary people pay for the crisis of the bankers.”
Meanwhile students marched from Manchester University to the city centre, where they met up with Dpac protesters.
They carried red boxes symbolising the weight of student debt and held a sit-down protest outside the conference.
More protests were planned on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, including a Refugees Welcome Here protest called by Stand Up to Racism.