London – Thousands of people joined two protest marches against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government and against Britain leaving the European Union Manchester on Sunday, as the party opened its annual conference.
“I’m at ‘Stop Brexit Manchester’ to tell Theresa May and [Foreign Secretary] Boris Johnson we’re not citizens of nowhere, but proud to be British and European,” Vince Cable, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said on Twitter before he addressed the Stop Brexit protest.
Campaign for another referendum
“If the government can’t deliver what Brexiteers promised, people are entitled to vote with a chance to exit from Brexit,” said Cable, who is campaigning for a second referendum on whether to accept or reject the terms negotiated for Brexit by May’s government.
Many left-wing and trade union groups joined a separate anti-Conservative protest organized by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which plans a five-day “Take Back Manchester Festival” to run during the conference.
The People’s Assembly groups rallied under slogans including “Tories out!”, “No more austerity,” and “Scrap the pay cap” for public sector staff.
They accused May of leading “a dramatically weakened government, a divided party, and [having] no obvious way out of the situation.”
Multiple accusations for Mai and the government
“The Tories know that May has become toxic following her terrible performance in the election campaign [in June], but they also know getting rid of her now could force another election which they’d likely lose,” People’s Assembly said ahead of the protest.
Greater Manchester Police said the Stop Brexit marchers were dispersing by mid-afternoon as the People’s Assembly protest, which was expected to be larger, got under way. It reported no arrests.
Ahead of the events, the force said it expected tens of thousands of people to visit the city over the weekend.
It said it had devised Operation Protector, “a dedicated policing operation to make sure there’s minimal disruption for the public and everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.”
Chief Superintendent John O’Hare, head of the police operation, said the officers would “strive to achieve the right balance between facilitating protest and enabling people to go about their daily business without fear or intimidation.”