My March in remembrance of the Peterloo massacre.

On Sunday I, along with hundreds from around the greater Manchester area marched in commemoration of those who were injured and killed at what is now known as The Peterloo massacre. I walked nine miles wearing unsuitable footwear, but I felt that it was necessary to pay homage to those that passed away at Peterloo. Growing up in a town not far from Manchester, I have always been aware of the Peterloo Massacre and the injustices thrown at innocent people that day. 

On the 16th of August 1819 an estimated 18 people, including a woman and a child died from cuts from a sabar and trampling. 7000 men, women and children received serious injuries, many never recovered from them and they continued to suffer for the rest of their lives. 

Crowds began to gather on the morning of The 16th of August. Whole families attended from all over the north west. This was intended to be a peaceful demonstration, and many brought picnics to eat whilst sitting on what was known as petersfields Manchester. They marched great distances in protest mainly because of the disastrous corn laws which made making bread unaffordable. At that time fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, so this was their way of saying peacefully that they weren’t happy. Many were wearing their Sunday best and behaved with great dignity. They weren’t violent thugs, they were good people trying to make a peaceful stand. 

They had speakers planned, the key speaker being Henry Hunt. He stood on a cart. Not everyone could hear him due to the amount of people attending. People were holding banners which said words such as equal restoration , reform, love and universal sufferage. Many of the banners contained the red cap of Liberty, which was seen as a very powerful symbol. 

As you can imagine the authorities weren’t happy. Local magistrates were watching from a a window near the field. They panicked, even though the event was a very peaceful one. Without much thought they read the crowd the riot act, but the crowd was that large, not many were able to hear and they made no effort to tell people. 

At that moment 600 Hussars, several hundred infantrymen, an artillery unit packed with two six pounder guns, 400 men of the Cheshire cavalry and 400 special countable waited in reserve in buildings surrounding the field. The local yeomanry were given the task of arresting the speakers, so head by Captain Hugh Brieley and Major Thomas Trafford, who were essentially a parliamentary force drawn from the ranks of the local mill and shop owners. 

They then on horseback, fully armed with cutlasses and clubs proceeded to head towards the very large crowd. They were already biased against members of the crowd and wanted to settle scores this way. Issuing orders such as “There’s sexton, damn him run him through” 

They proceeded further and charged towards the crowd. The crowd had stood linking arms, trying to prevent the arrests, but it was to no avail. Their banners were struck down and they moved toward the crowd striking out at people. There are reports which state that the yeomanry were drunk which I fear only fuelled their violence. 

By 2pm,the field was a scene of carnage. Abandoned banners strewn everywhere and dead bodies lying on the field. Those injured waiting desperately for help. Journalists at the scene trying to report the event were arrested, and others who went in to report the days event were jailed. The businessman John Edwards Taylor went on to set up the guardian newspaper as a direct reaction as to what he had seen. 

The speakers and organisers were put on trial, and were first charged with high treason, which was reluctantly dropped by the prosecution. The hussars and magistrates responsible for slaying innocent people received a message of congratulations from the prince regent and were cleared of any wrong doing. 

So why do we continue to march and commemorate the day? 

The battle of Peterloo played a huge part in paving the way for ordinary people to win the right to vote. It lead to the Chartist Movement from which grew the trade union movement and it established the publishing the establishment of the Manchester guardian movement. The injustices and suffering inflicted at Peterloo played a critical part in the poorest getting the freedoms that we have today. 

It inspired the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to write his poem The Masque of Anarchy, which due to restrictions placed on the radical press was not published until 1832, then years after the poets death. 

This is a very brief overview of events, and many thanks to The Peterloo Massacre Memorial campaign for their information which has helped me write this article.

The Peterloo massacre is as important today as it was then, because we are still fighting the same battle, the battle of injustice forced upon the poorest and most vulnerable in society. I shall always remember the victims of Peterloo. So I sit here with sore feet writing this article which I feel is a very small price to pay in remembrance of those who lost their lives.

There’s more chance of dying at the hands of the government than at the hands of a murderer in the UK. 

Sounds obscene doesn’t it? Sounds like I’m scaremongering but I’m not. This is the reality of being poor and disabled and living in the U.K at the moment. 

We don’t have fun, life is very hard. I don’t know of anyone that actually benefits from being on so called benefits at the moment. It’s a word that I don’t like using. It’s social security and we need to start using the correct wording. Blairite and Tory language should not be used in my eyes.

The reason why they don’t like us saying ‘social security’ is because it actually states what it is. It is a safety net that most people have paid into throughout their life. When you fall on hard times its there to provide some security from starving and the other results of poverty.. 

What this government has done very successfully is to make people forget this. They’ve got total control of the media. The red top newspapers are having a field day. Not happy with that they started to produce hateful programmes such as ‘Benefit Street’. This has resulted in the poor turning against the poor. They believe what the newspapers and the TV programmes say. And people have been discriminated against and bullied by others as a result. 

We have a society that is falling apart at the seams. This government has failed everyone except the rich, which of course is their plan. The poor cost them money in their eyes so therefore they want rid. They forget though that it is the poor that has helped to make them rich, and always have done throughout the ages. It’s a dog eat dog world out there now and the poor are the fall guys, taking the blame for the mistakes of the richest in society. The amount of stress I’m under because I’m poor at the moment is unbelievable. I’m the worst of financially than I have ever been and I always have the fear of loosing my home at the back of my mind. 

My grandmother told me that when the NHS was created it was the best thing that ever happened. When the safety nets were created it made sure that there was no more suffering in the workhouses. If you had asked anyone of an older generation the very mention of the words workhouse would send shivers down their spines.. But we don’t even have that anymore. People I know have committed suicide, have had nervous breakdowns and their families have fallen apart as a result of this governments draconian system. But one thing that we still have the power to do is the power to react. We can fight back. Being poor makes you very resourceful and when you have nothing you have nothing to loose.

This is the tweet that prompted this blog. I feel much safer walking down the street on a dark night than I do walking into a Jobcentre and dealing with any DWP department. I think that’s an astonishing statement to make. But this government is running riot and we need to stop them.

I believe that the European court of human rights has been contacted again. This time over the release of the figures of those that have died after being declared fit for work.. Now I’m sure that these figures are on the lower limits but what did annoy me slightly is the fact that this doesn’t contain the total for the amount of people that have been sanctioned and have then died. Their life’s matter as well and we need to demand another inquiry into this as well. One death is a death too many. 

Scary isn’t it. 

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