Manchester marks 200th anniversary of Peterloo Massacre
Saturday - August 17, 2019 6:54 am , Category : DIASPORA
London, Aug 17 (IANS) Events from 200 years ago were relived in Manchester when the city remembered one of the most shameful atrocities in British history, the Peterloo Massacre.Crowds of people gathered in the busy and bustling city center to commemorate the massacre which on August 16, 1819, left 18 dead, the youngest aged just two, and 700 injured. Four of the dead were women.The commemoration event kicked off on Friday with a solemn reading of the names of those who died when cavalrymen on horseback, waving their swords, charged at a gathering of around 60,000 people in St Peter's Field, Manchester on August 16, 2019. Some of the names were read by descendants of the victims, Xinhua reported.The bell at the nearby Town Hall was rung in honour of those killed. The first to die in an attack that shocked the country two centuries ago was two years old William Fildes, who was thrust from his mother's arms when she fled the cavalry. Of the 700 were injured; 168 were women.History lecturer, Professor Robert Poole, who has written a book about Peterloo, said people were attacked as they tried to escape the charge by the cavalry. "People were crushed, piled up against this wall, piles of people falling on the ground on top of each other," he said.Dr Shirin Hirsch, researcher at People's History Museum in Manchester, said: "Historians have noted that women were disproportionately targeted at Peterloo. Their presence shocked the establishment, challenging the prevalent ideas of women as subservient and domesticated wives."The British government was keen to cover up the massacre, imprisoning the reform leaders and clamping down on those who spoke out against the government. Within days the massacre was being reported upon both nationally and internationally."Three days of events are taking place across Manchester to mark the bi-centenary of the massacre which came after local magistrates ordered the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to disperse a crowd gathered to demand parliamentary representation at a time when few people in Britain were allowed to vote.Performances, exhibitions and a reading of witness statements made at the time were being read out to bring alive the dramatic events from 1819.Manchester Histories, main organisers of the commemoration, said: "The Peterloo Massacre was a watershed moment that would mark Manchester as a radical city like no other and become a defining moment for Britain's democracy. The 60,000-strong crowd walked to the meeting point at St Peter's Field in Central to call for parliamentary representation. Shortly after the meeting began and whilst the orator Henry Hunt was making his address, local government forces charged into the crowd on horseback and with swords drawn."Manchester's culture spokesperson, Councilor Luthfur Rahman, said: "The Peterloo Massacre was an important event in Manchester's history and should not be forgotten."Karen Shannon, CEO of Manchester Histories, described the commemoration as a poignant occasion, adding: "The Peterloo Massacre is a globally significant milestone in the history of democracy that also set Manchester's path as a radical city of progress, change and where equality is championed."
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