71 Peterloo_Massacre
It was ‘Manchester’s Tian’anmen’ – a mass rally by pro-democracy campaigners crushed with brutal violence. Most people remember the Tian’anmen Square protests in 1989 when the Chinese military cracked down on public protests by groups of students and intellectuals demanding democratic freedoms.

But about 170 years beforehand, a similar mass demonstration here in Manchester was stamped out with similar cruelty. It’s known as the Peterloo Massacre and is described by historians as a ‘world changing event.’

Back in the early part of the 19th Century, just 2% of the British population had the vote. So, on 16 August 1819, 60,000 peaceful protesters gathered on St Peter’s Fields in Manchester to demand the right to elect their own MPs. The demonstration ended when local militia on horseback charged the protesters and cut them down with sabres, leaving 11 dead and many injured.

Historians acknowledge that Peterloo was hugely influential in giving ordinary people the vote, led to the rise of the Chartist Movement from which grew the Trade Unions, and also resulted in the establishment of the Manchester Guardian.

Yet the only memorial in Manchester is a blue plaque on the Free Trade Hall (now the Radisson Hotel) on Peter Street – the site of St Peter’s Fields. It makes no reference to a ‘massacre’ but only to ‘the dispersal’ of the crowd, omitting that 11 people were killed – including a woman and a child.

A campaign for a more ‘prominent, accurate and respectful monument to this profound event’ is underway.