By Emily Garcia
On the day of the 2021 Spring equinox, Manchester joined the capital and dozens of cities in Europe and beyond in the coordinated ‘Worldwide Rally For Freedom’, marking the end of a long, austere locked-down-winter.
I joined rally goers in convening in the early afternoon at the National Football museum, before marching up to Oldham Road Police station to deliver pre-filled in crime reports on the unlawful lockdowns.
Given both the scenes at Clapham Common’s Sarah Everard Vigil and the second reading of the Police, Crime and Sentencing bill having passed in the commons the previous week, it was uncertain what approach the police would take to ‘illegal gatherers’ on the day. Thankfully they held to a laissez faire approach, marshalling and surveilling only.
There were no arrests and few, if any, attempts to disperse us or other protesting groups. In fact, the police organising the closure of Oldham road as the 1000+ marchers created something of a blockage. Judging by the number of horn beeps, many motorists were onside!
The atmosphere, as with all pro-freedom rallies I’ve attended was very friendly (well we are northerners!) peace loving and fun. The crowd also fit the usual ‘anti-lockdown protestor’ demographic of being diverse in age, nationality & ethnicity, mixed sex, but overwhelmingly working class. For some attendees it was their first ever political demo.
We marched to a soundtrack of loudspeaker broadcast beats, Bob Marley sing a-longs, boisterous shouting & joking, whilst exchanging and handing out to passerby’s a plethora of creative homemade leaflets, stickers and the Northern produced, and sole national ‘Truthpaper:’ The Light.
Masks were a rare sight, whilst hugs and hand shakes were in copious supply. How Covidiotic! #Covidiots was trending on twitter later that night along with #Antilockdownprotest and #LondonProtest. I believe most people miss seeing public smiles, having audible conversations with strangers and generally acting relaxed amongst groups of non ‘spaced apart’/ (anti)social distanced fellow humans, consciously or otherwise. Luckily joy is truly infectious, so, as with every other freedom rally I’ve been to, members of the public joined us en route.
The rally closed at Piccadilly Gardens with a minutes silence and flower laying to commemorate those whose lives have been destroyed or ended by lockdowns, followed by various speeches.
By this point student looking types had started to gather for the Reclaim These Streets ‘Kill The Bill’ protest.
Amongst some more relatable/relevant signs with references to anti-fascism and police overreach, was the usual unintelligible and esoteric woke rhetoric, with the obligatory ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ placard/s. Although I did spot a young fellow in fishnets and what appeared to be a platinum bobbed wig, disappointingly his complexion shone resolutely pale, so I concluded that those much considered and terribly oppressed black transgender individuals remained elusive for yet another leftist demo in a Northern English town/city.
The protest had swelled to fill St Peter’s Square by the time I approached to unlock my bike, the very same spot that had earlier hosted a Black Lives Matter demo, bringing the number of city centre political gatherings for the day to a busy 3.
Perhaps democracy isn’t dead just yet!
I felt spontaneously inspired to entreat the crowd to consider opposing extended police powers, in a broader context. However my hoarse cries of ‘lockdowns ARE fascism’ and ‘kill the bill AND the Coronavirus Act,’ ‘We’re headed towards a police state, wake up!’ met with muted disapproving murmurs and head shakes. It seemed they certainly didn’t mean THOSE sorts of attacks on our democratic freedoms and anyway opposing fascism IN GENERAL carries no social capital. I realised it was unfair to ask these young people to likely lose twitter and instagram followers simply for the sake of resisting the encroaching dystopian medico-pharm-techno dictatorship (a niche issue, to be sure) so I turned tail and cycled off.
Back home, I was buoyed to catch up on the jubilant scenes of rally goers in the capital, which attracted the largest crowd of any anti-lockdown event yet and which even the BBC reported on somewhat sympathetically. Solidarity with everyone that was part of organising and attending the rallies yesterday in the UK and abroad. May our gatherings gather apace, in numbers and in political sway as spring/summer 2021 unfolds. Vive la revo-LOVE-tion!