The demonstration took place on the opening day of the Conference at Manchester’s Central Conference Centre, Saturday 20th September; a week after the death of the one hundred and twentieth British soldier to die in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2001.
The march, which began in the city centre, was organised by the Stop The War Coalition, the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and the British Muslim Initiative in an attempt to put pressure on the Government to withdraw British military forces from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Eileen Boyle, Vice President of the Glasgow University branch of the Stop The War Coalition, hailed the protest a great success for the campaign, claiming to have made a serious impact in Manchester.
She said: “We brought the place to an absolute standstill. It was great - they couldn’t ignore us. People were clapping and everything. It was a really nice atmosphere.”
As part of the demonstration the organisers held a two-minute silence for those killed as a result of Britain’s involvement in the Middle East.
Prominent anti-war campaigners Tony Benn, ex-Labour MP, and Rose Gentle, whose son was killed in Iraq, gave speeches to the protesters outside the conference.
Inside the conference, while the spotlight was sharply focused on the current economic crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan featured too.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking on Tuesday, repeatedly defended the ‘War On Terror’ as did Foreign Secretary David Miliband who argued Britain’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was giving people there a life “free of fear”.
However Boyle dismissed this image of Labour strength shown at the conference.
She said: “The Labour party is not the party it used to be…it’s just tagging along with [President] Bush now”.
Boyle argues that the British public has universally lost faith in the war in Iraq.
The said: “The argument has been won, you can’t find people that are pro-war anymore. There’s no one left to convince. Less people believe the nonsense now, people now know it’s about oil”.
Following the positive reception of a Stop The War conference held on campus two years ago, the university’s branch are putting plans into place for a similar event that will take place on the 14th and 15th of February