The March for Democracy, this Sunday 18 August, will pay tribute to those demanding democratic reform who were slaughtered by government forces 200 years ago at Peterloo. The rally will also look to the future, asking how we can reform democracy, to make it fit for the 21st century.
It’s the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre today and this Sunday people will be gathering to commemorate the sacrifice of the Peterloo reformers, who were slaughtered by government forces for demanding democratic reforms. The March for Democracy will assemble at ten different points outside central Manchester, before marching on to join together for the rally in Albert square at 1pm.
The Peterloo Massacre occurred on 16 August 1819. Around 60,000 to 80,000 were gathered peacefully. The local magistrates feared insurrection and read the Riot Act. The reformers were charged by the sabre wielding Manchester and Salford yeomanry cavalry, who killed around 18 people and wounded up to 700.
The protestors in 1819 had marched from all over Lancashire to gather in St Peter’s field in Manchester. The gathering points this Sunday, detailed on the Peterloo Democracy website, honour the fact that people from across the region gathered together to demand justice from a distant, unrepresentative and uncaring government.
The rally at Albert Square will be attended by speakers from a range of organisations, and will host live entertainment, with appearances by guest celebrities. The organisers of the march and rally, Greater Manchester Trades Union Council (GMTUC), wish to raise public awareness of what the original Marchers sought to achieve, They also want to encourage widespread public debate about what political reforms are needed today, to provide a political system that, the GMTUC says, “provides for the many rather than the few”. There is also another Peterloo memorial event ,the Illegal Picnic, on Saturday 17 August.
These are some of possible proposals the GMUTC are suggesting could be raised at public meetings being organised across the region and the country:
· Proportional representation for political parties in all elections
· The Chartist’s demands for Annual Parliaments
· Reducing the voting age to 16 and other extensions of the franchise
· Abolition of the House of Lords
· Greater democratic control of public services by the people
· A genuine democratic devolution of power to the regions, cities and towns
· A greater say at work including statutory trades union recognition
· A written Constitution, Bill of Rights and Citizens’ Responsibilities
The GMUTC say that Peterloo should also be remembered, bloody as it was, as:
“Marking the beginnings of a two centuries long struggle by working people, in the worlds first industrialised country, to impress the democratic will of the many on the established social and political order dominated by the few; via parliamentary and other reforms, which since Peterloo, have secured us the basic civil liberties and rights we have today.”
For more information about the March for Democracy check out the Peterloo Democracy website – click here
Feature image: Greater Manchester Trades Union Council