April Fools' Parade

Not an april fool prank (as thought by a Manchester Evening News reporter!), but an event to make the point that the proposed Terrorism Bill is so extreme and ridiculous that it is a joke. (The bill will allow the police to treat some campaigners as terrorists and to hold them in custody without access to a lawyer for 2 days!).

300 people gathered in Piccadilly Gardens, armed with some suspicious leaflets, and a hugely subversive banner (see photos for proof!). The plan was to parade around the city centre, stopping off at the Freemason's and the Town Hall for a chat over buns about government legislation and the hidden state. Nothing antagonistic, just a few pranks and a bit of mockery, no blocking roads for hours on end: indeed, a note was circulated calling for self-restraint.

However, the police cordoned off St. Anne's Square and set up road blocks, causing traffic to grind to a halt on Cross Street. The voice of authority balled out instructions over a megaphone, but was lost amidst a cacophony of whistles. A pedal powered sound system turned up, and the terrorist tea party began to warm up. Instructions to leave town were re-issued and re-ignored.

As this all happened, the tactics of coercion and intimidation started to be deployed. 3 people were nicked, including John Nicholson, one time deputy leader of Manchester City Council and now active with Gr Mcr Socialist Alliance. John states that he was jumped by 6 cops and "arrested" without warning, and that subsequently no officer was able to identify the arresting officer. In his opinion the protestors were unjustifiably attacked on a peaceful protest, and that the incidents with the police highlighted the importance of mounting effective opposition to the Terrorism Bill.

Finally we all left, safe & unharmed, dignity intact, with 5000 leaflets on the Terrorism Bill given out, and a day to remember. In all it could be described as a qualified success.

Meetings: 1st Monday of month, 7:30pm, Friends Meeting House.

Info: "Terrorist Tea Party" (0161 226 6814, teaparty@nematode.freeserve.co.uk)

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(c) Networking Newsletter (April/May 2000)