The war in Ukraine caused outrage all around the world, and many people wanted to show their solidarity by demonstrating in large numbers. These demonstrations not only show the government how the ordinary citizens feel, they also show the world, including the Ukrainians under siege, that we are aware of what is happening and stand with the oppressed. there were two anti-war demonstrations in Manchester, but sadly the second one was not as well attended as the first due to cancellations in public transport.
The war that shocked the world
On 24 February 2022 Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine, starting a war everyone had hoped would never happen. There were outcries from other countries, and as the stream of refugees started many countries opened their borders for people fleeing the violence without insisting on visas or other residence permits.
The world was aghast. People wanted to express their feelings, and demonstrations were organised in many countries. People wanted to express their anger with the aggressors (Putin’s Russia) and their solidarity with the oppressed. After all, in a free and democratic country all citizens are allowed to have an opinion and express it, and that is exactly what demonstrations like this are about to: protest this freedom being taken away from the citizens of another country.
In North West England too, people wanted to show how revolted they are by the Russian atrocities and express their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. This resulted in two demonstrations being held in Manchester in Piccadilly Gardens. The demonstrations were announced on Facebook, to allow as many people as possible to participate if they wanted.
For those who are still keen to show their support, a protest march will be held in London that has been advertised nationwide. The march was organised by the London Mayor and the European Movement UK and will take place this Saturday on 26 March, between 2-5pm. To let the organisers know you are coming, please fill in the form on the website of the European Movement. The larger the turn-out the stronger the message it sends to our politicians, to other countries, and especially to the Ukrainians.
We need to keep showing support and demand more sanctions against Russia and help for Ukraine.
The first demonstration
The first march in Manchester was attended by many Lithuanians. North West Bylines had the opportunity to talk to Ms Ruta Krisio, chair of the Lithuanian community in Leeds:
“The Lithuanian community is standing strong in support of Ukraine. We need to stand united with the entire world against the aggressor Putin. It’s not just Ukrainian independence at stake, it is the safety of the entire continent of Europe.
“We need to stop this aggressor in a united front. To help Ukrainians we need to keep Ukraine in the front pages of the media, donate money for armours, medication. Impose the strictest sanctions to Russia and Belarus ever used. We can fight Putin together. We do not give up. Heroes keep fighting.”
When asked if any other nationalities have spoken out against the war, Ms Kisio said:
“Yes, people did speak, there were Ukrainians speaking, Russians were speaking, apologising for their country. Belarus, someone from Belarus was speaking, Lithuanians were speaking, everyone was talking about their own experience. Basically, the Russian, as I said, was apologising for the actions of his country, the Belarussian was saying that he has come here as a refugee, and he was persecuted in his own country. It was really sad, people talking about their experiences and the messages like ‘I keep calling my mum every day to see if she is alive’.”
The second demonstration sadly drew fewer people. A contributing factor to that may have been the fact that Network Rail was working on the rail tracks leading to Manchester.
A report from one of the North West Bylines team on her experience trying to get to the demonstration:
The journey to the second demonstration with cancelled train services
The bus in Wigan was on time, I bought the ticket I had planned and sat down. I was the only one in the bus wearing a face covering (in fact that was the case the whole day in public transport). I still wear a mask and will continue doing so for the foreseeable future, but in spite of notices in buses, trains and train stations saying to “please wear a face covering unless you are exempt, respect other”, neither the travellers nor the staff wore one.
The real fun started in Wigan North Western Train Station. The platform was full, a lot more people than I had seen before on a Saturday. While we were waiting for the train, there was an announcement on the tannoy that “the train would be very full and more passengers may not be allowed on it”. The train came, and it was like sardines in a tin. So the doors closed and the train left again, leaving the majority of the would-be travellers stranded on the platform. The next Manchester service would be two hours later.
A voice over the tannoy again: “if you want to go to Manchester Piccadilly, the next train leaves at 2.15pm. Alternatively please make your way over to Wigan Wallgate Station, take the train to Bolton and from there the train to Manchester Victoria” (from Manchester Victoria to Piccadilly is about a 15 minute walk). Many of those on the platform, some who were likely planning to go to the demonstration, went home again, unhappy that they had been sold a ticket for a service that was not available to them. People were heard saying there was no way they would be in Piccadilly gardens for 2pm by train.
I went to Wigan Wallgate, and less than half the people from the other station followed. We waited for the 13.08 train to Bolton. We arrived in Bolton just after 13.30, and guess what? No trains to Manchester, only replacement buses, one every 5 – 10 minutes. So that was another set-back, a long-lasting bus journey rather than a quick train ride.
All in all, a lot of people were prohibited from going by the problems on the network. It may well be that services are going to be better once the work has been finalised, but why wasn’t there a warning on the website where you check train times, and a notice of what was happening and how long it would last in the stations? Not everyone reads all online papers that might mention a disruption to train schedules.
If mayor Andy Burnham really wants to improve transport in the North West, this was not a good start from a passenger point of view.
The second Manchester demonstration against the Russian invasion in Ukraine
I arrived across the road from Manchester Piccadilly station at 14.25pm, and walked the 10 minutes to Manchester Piccadilly Gardens, where the demonstration was being held.
The demonstration was in full swing when I arrived, with people holding flags and signs with slogans like ‘Stop Putin’, ‘Stop the war’, and ‘Ukraine shall not surrender’.
I guess there were about 400-500 people there. Tactical police were present, they did not interfere, just asked people not to stand on the road but to stay on the pavements. There seemed to be as many Eastern Europeans (from hearing the languages people spoke to each other) as British people. Old and young, families and friends, all with one thing in mind: that this should not be happening, this invasion of Ukraine.
So yes, the demonstration went ahead, but more people could and most likely would have attended if it wasn’t for the train cancellations, and the lack of carriages on the trains that were operating. I felt sad that our infrastructure and the lack of communication and replacement buses prevented many people from showing their support about this war to the world.
After all, it is so important to take a stance against what is so clearly wrong in today’s world, and bombarding innocent civilians is very wrong.
More information about the demonstration this Saturday can be found HERE.
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