SOME 2,000 people joined a Stop the War Coalition protest against Blair in Manchester on Saturday. Blair and other ministers had gathered in the city for New Labour's spring conference. Police created a 'Red Zone' around the G-Mex complex where the conference took place, setting up special barricades and roadblocks defended by armed police. As the conference began on Friday of last week, anti-war activists held a 'Trial of Tony Blair'.
Huge puppets of Blair towered over a mock courtroom as 200 activists accused Blair of mass murder in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 40 members of the audience queued up to make one-minute speeches explaining why they would like to see Blair prosecuted. Rob Jackson talked about a school visit that Blair had held that morning as part of his 'big conversation': 'It was a secret meeting, but as soon as people heard about it they got on their phones. We organised a lively protest outside the school.'
On Saturday the main protest took place just after Blair's conference speech. Activists from Leeds, Bradford, Preston, Liverpool and Sheffield joined protesters from Manchester. Many Labour Party members who attended the conference were disappointed with the event. One told Socialist Worker, 'There's no real debate or discussion here. Blair got a good reception, but the whole thing is stage-managed.'