Between 50,000 and 60,000 anti-war protesters converged on Manchester city centre on Saturday of last week for the Stop the War Coalition’s “Time To Go” demonstration.
Marchers from Penzance to Aberdeen were united in their demands to get British troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan - and for Tony Blair to get out of 10 Downing Street.
There was a strong regional turnout for Stop the War’s first national demonstration outside of London, which took place on the eve of the Labour Party’s annual conference in Manchester.
Many of the protesters were young people, some of whom joined a feeder march into the main demonstration organised by Manchester students.
Louise Marsland and Hannah Clarke came down from Preston with a group of students. Louise told Socialist Worker, “I don’t know who will follow Blair, and I don’t know how they will clean up the mess Blair has made. But this has gone too far and it has to stop now.”
Hannah said, “I came to the demo because I’ve been reading the papers all week and it made me really angry. My brothers have been in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blair is George Bush’s lapdog - he should go now.”
The demonstration started at lunchtime with an opening rally in Albert Square, before heading off on a circular route around the Labour conference’s city centre venue.
There was a strong trade union involvement, with contingents of striking workers from NHS Logistics and Merseyside Fire Brigades Union joining the march.
Seven national trade unions provided sponsorship, including the T&G, NUJ, UCU, RMT, PCS, CWU and, for the first time, the broadcasting workers’ union Bectu.
The march was marked by blazing sunshine and a series of street theatre events, including a mass “die in”. Other protesters dressed up as “Butcher Bush” or carried coffins to symbolise the deaths of thousands across the Middle East.
The closing rally was addressed by speakers including Tony Benn, Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition, Rose Gentle from Military Families Against the War, Tony Woodley of the T&G union, and the Unison union’s deputy general secretary Keith Sonnet.
MPs addressing the crowd included Respect’s George Galloway, and Labour left wingers Michael Meacher, Alan Simpson and Jeremy Corbyn. Tommy Sheridan MSP also spoke, representing the new Solidarity movement in Scotland.
One surprise speaker was Lauren Booth, journalist and half sister of Cherie Booth, Tony Blair’s wife. She said Blair should be ashamed of himself for refusing to call for a ceasefire during Israel’s recent assault on Lebanon. “Yo Blair - it’s time to go, Blair,” she added.
Some 400 people attended the Stop the War Coalition alternative conference in Manchester last Sunday. For a full report of this and the rest of the demo go to Reports and video of Manchester Time to Go demonstration