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Taking to the streets

Extracts from memoirs and diaries recording mass protests of the past

By Ian Irvine   March 2011

16th August 1819. Over 50,000 people marched to St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, for a meeting demanding parliamentary reform. Fifteen were killed when the army charged the crowd. Samuel Bamford, afterwards imprisoned for 12 months for sedition, records the scene:

“The meeting was indeed a tremendous one. Mr Hunt [Henry Hunt, the celebrated radical speaker], stepping towards the front of the stage, took off his white hat, and addressed the people… a noise and strange murmur arose… I stood on tiptoe and saw a party of cavalry in blue and white uniform come trotting, sword in hand… they were received with…

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