Hulme Gallery (e)

Fri 30th April 1999: Reclaim The Streets an environmental protest group staged a peaceful demonstration which ended in violence, arrests & the closure of the A57 for over 3 hours in a bizarre stand-off with authorities. Events began in an Oxford Road side street, one of MCR’s main transport arteries & heart of University campus. From midday until 3pm, a slowly growing crowd of students, well-wishers & passers-by danced to techno from a small sound-system van & relaxed on what was one of the hottest days of the year

Without warning 20 of Manchester’s Finest moved in intent on impounding a generator driving the music. There were objections. People who tried to occupy the van were forcibly removed. Ensuing violence, bottles & beer cans were hurled at police injuring several officers, resulted in 8 arrests. GMP regrouped (helicopter hovering over ahead) & formed a cordon, concerned that city centre might become a target for civil disobedience

The protest took a sharp turn into Hulme , long held site of challenges to authority, where it was met by yet more police. They flooded onto the A57 Mancunian Way slip road, stopping the soon-to-be rush-hour traffic by their sheer volume and, with cars soon backing up, beginning a 3 hour sit-in that would cause total gridlock south of the city centre

Commuters & constabulary were completely helpless. There was nothing anyone could do about it. Manchester had simply ground to a halt. People trapped in their vehicles were angry but others merely bemused and, resigned to a long wait, turned on their radios. Others danced & played football in the sun. An arbitrary exemption process let through some elderly drivers & those stranded with children. Hairy Biker edged his motorbike through but was prevented from passing. He got off, parked his bike & joined in to great welcoming cheers. HGV drivers were not so impressed or as accommodating, leaning on their air-horns repeatedly in frustration. In the sunshine though the chaotic carnival mood remained

This was state of play for more than 3 hours until the crowd began to move back into Hulme where the sound-system had been re-established in a nearby children’s park. Police moved in again. Further arrests were made. Perhaps learning from previous experience, however, the music was allowed to continue long into the night
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