First off, I went to a "Labour Behind the Label" leafletting session outside the Disney store in St. Anne's Square. Given it was arranged at the last minute (I only received an invitation email the day before), it wasn't surprizing that only 5 people were there. (Another person apparently went along but missed us!) I spent about an hour there before returning to work. All in all it was fairly successful with upwards of a thousand fliers distributed to the public, most of whom seemed to spend part of their lunch hour reading about the poor working conditions of those who provide the goods for sale by Disney.
At 4pm, I returned to town for the anti-Balfour Beatty demonstration. This was pretty well publicized and aimed to raise awarenes of the company's involvement with the Illisu Dam. This massive project is opposed by human rights groups and environmentalists on the grounds that it will flood the historic town of Hasankeyf and displace 20,000 Kurdish people. Balfour Beatty are also the contractors for the "redevelopment" of Piccadilly Gardens. We gathered outside BB's local offices above "Spud U Like". I was expecting 200 people (call me naive!) but there was probably less than 50 there. That was disappointing. We stood around for about 20 minutes and it seemed to me more of a collection of people just hanging about on a street corner than any kind of demostration. A few fliers were handed out but it was more of an interchange between the "activists" than leafletting the public. After a while we moved on, surrounded by about 60 police and 3 police horses. However there seemed little direction and after another 20 minutes of, seemingly, aimless wandering about the area of Piccadilly Gardens I gave up, bought my tea, and went to a meeting.
So, all in all, I had the impression that Manchester's not quite the hot bed of political activity it once claimed to be. Perhaps many went to London instead? Hopefully, the planned day of "anti-centralist, anti-government, anti-corporation" on June 7 will get all the groups concerned about the environment, animal rights, human rights and other social justice issues back on the streets to show how united we all are in our fight for a fairer, better world for all.
Michael, editor, Networking Newsletter