FAMILIES, couples, students, trade unionists and a broad coalition of protest groups took to the streets for the biggest political demonstration in Sheffield for years.
Assembling at Devonshire Green, around 5,000 people marched down Fitzwilliam Street, along Charter Row and up Pinstone Street to Barkers Pool for a rally in front of the ‘ring of steel’ around City Hall.
Organisers were happy with the turn out, despite the figure falling far short of the earlier 10,000 estimates.
Anti-Cuts Alliance Chairman Martin Mayer told the crowd he always believed Sheffield people would behave responsibly and the police and security measures were way over the top.
Civil servant Cathy Murray, of Hunters Bar, said people were keen to protest against the Lib Dems because they were seen as being ‘treacherous’.
“That’s especially true of students. Many voted Lib Dem because of their pledge on fees and look what happened.”
James Rayner, 20, a Hallam University student, said feelings about fees were still high among his friends: “Plenty of us wanted to come out today. The laws may have gone through but we haven’t forgotten what the Lib Dems did. I think the party will find this will hang around their necks for years and years to come.”
Martin John, 55, a trade union officer, was marching with his nine-year-old daughter Maia - a veteran of several previous protests: Many here are worried about their jobs. The expected loss of senior posts will be a big hit for the local economy.
“To hold the conference here at this particular time seems very provocative - but I suppose a decision was taken long before the Lib Dems joined the coalition.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey told the rally the Lib Dems should quit the coalition and come over to the side of the British people: “Nick Clegg has turned the Lib Dems into shock troops for a Tory counter-revolution that aims to dismantle everything ordinary British people have built up over generations. Lib Dem voters reject the course he has chosen. Lib Dem councillors, activists and, yes, Lib Dem MPs, should put the people first and come over to the opposition where they will find a warm welcome.”
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield urged the protesters to teach the Lib Dem council a lesson at the ballot box in May: “I only defeated the Lib Dem candidate last year by a tiny margin. Yet since then many people have told me how much they regretted casting their vote as they did.”