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Manchester remembers the 200th anniversary of the 'Peterloo' massacre
and unveils memorial to this pivotal event
Report by Sean Morris, UK & Ireland Mayors for Peace Chapter Secretary
The 'Peterloo' Massacre took place at St Peter's Field in Manchester, on Monday 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into an estimated crowd of 60,000 people who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. In the ensuing confusion, 18 people were killed and as many as 700 people were injured. The massacre was given the name 'Peterloo' in an ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier. It is one of the defining events in the history of Manchester and in the wider campaign for universal suffrage, which was not finally given in the UK until 1928.
A major 'Peterloo' festival of exhibitions, talks, films and cultural and live events has taken place across Greater Manchester over the past few months. This is culminating in an anniversary weekend around the 16th –18th August where there are a whole host of events planned including a march for democracy, a live concert, art events, walking tours and a special anniversary event by the new public memorial to 'Peterloo'. The memorial is in front of the Manchester Central Convention Complex, close to where St Peter's Field was originally located.
The memorial, designed by Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller, is a series of concentric circles one on top of another. It includes the names of the towns and villages of the 60,000 protesters – along with the names of the 18 men, women and children who died – which are engraved on to the vertical faces of the steps around the memorial in positions that are accurate to their direction geographically. On the top of the memorial are compass points recalling other public uprisings in history such as the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa, the attack on the civil rights demonstration in Derry, Northern Ireland, the launch of Solidarity in Gdansk, Poland and the Tiananmen Square student demonstration in Beijing, China. At a special event on August 16th, the names of all those who died at 'Peterloo' will be read out by this new memorial.
For Manchester City Council, a Lead City and Vice President of Mayors for Peace, 'Peterloo' remains a clear reminder of the ongoing campaigns around the world calling for peace, democracy and social justice.
The compass pointing international incidents similar to Peterloo up to the present day
The concentric circles main memorial
Some of the examples of other peaceful protests that have been violently put down
(Photos courtesy of the Manchester City Council)