A smash of glass and the rumble of boots
An electric train and a ripped-up phone booth
Waking up at 6 A.M. on a cool warm morning
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol
Is this Manchester?
The Manchester that we knew can only survive now in the memories of Mancunians. Piccadilly Gardens is now a warzone, there is no other word for it.
The burnt-out shell of a tram smoulders in front of what used to be the Parker Street bus stops.The Tadao Ando wall is pock-marked with bullet holes, the concrete front against the troops.
Will they call this the Battle of Piccadilly? Riot is not the word for the scenes that I witnessed last night. The debris and bodies cover the Gardens like a carelessly dropped trifle with no square inch spared.
It was half past two in the morning when the National Defence Force pulled out of the square to a raucous, animalistic response from the protestors. Mournful for their fallen comrades yet feeling the unshakeable euphoria of their victory over the oppressors. Fires were blazing in the upstairs windows of the Primark store, the City Tower and over by the recently built glass-fronted buildings towards Oldham Street.
The protests began three weeks ago and with each passing Saturday they increased in intensity and numbers. The opposition leaders’ speeches were met with anguished cheers and indignation spewed towards the government.
Two million jobs gone in Britain in two years, the ban on under-30s receiving unemployment benefit and the part-privatisation of local councils with conglomerates holding a certain percentage of seats. People had finally had enough, roused away from social media and consumerism to be reminded of what it means to be a citizen.
I woke up early this morning, God knows how I fell asleep after a three hour gunfight. I wander around the Gardens like an Hesychian monk in the desert. It feels like twenty-four hours ago was another world.
People were saying fifty thousand had attended last week’s speech which resulted in a small riot and the shooting dead of an eight year old boy and his father by police.
They had not been able to quell the discontent and on Friday night the people began barricading the streets off Piccadilly as rumours abounded that the government would send in the soldiers. Aytoun, Mosley, Portland, Lever – the barricades were named and manned by different organisations. By the time Saturday came round ten thousand people were ready to stand together and demand the resignation of the government.
The North had been forgotten once more. My job as a teacher had ended as the government introduced Automated School Programming in the test areas of Greater Manchester and East Yorkshire. Classes were now “taught” by robots and computers and half the teachers were “re-assigned” to becoming “Classroom Supervisors” on 60% of the wage. More euphemisms than on one of the shite, retro comedies they have on the now privatised BBC.
The early signs that social upheaval was becoming a major issue was with the Hull Riots two months ago. Over two days of violence including widespread looting due to the lack of a police response then led to the prison and three academies being burnt to the ground.
This prompted the government to bring in a ban on all political protests and gatherings. This easily passed through a compliant parliament and protests began to spread with Glasgow, Sheffield and Liverpool seeing mass disturbances.
The early morning is the coldest for a while but steam is still rising from the soaked concrete floor, and the smell is beginning to embed in my nostrils. A metallic taste at the back of my throat makes me feel nauseous and I need to sit down.
There are no benches remaining on the ground so I sit down and lean on the wire skeleton of a bus shelter. My ears are beginning to tune in to the real world.
What I thought was an eerie silence was surely the shock of waking up in the middle of a battlefield. Wails are coming from isolated bodies, I look to my right and ten foot away an NDF soldier is calling to me. He has no lower legs left, both have been ripped off, presumably from an explosion.
I meet his gaze and look at him. Desperation in his eyes. I feel no empathy, he is an enabler of the regime. I bet he was one of the bully boys beating teenagers to a pulp in Oldham last week.
“Please, please,” he raises his voice so I can hear what he is saying, “Please kill me,”
It’s like the old war films where the opposition will put someone out of their misery. This lad must be fucking insane if he thinks I’m going to do that for him. I get up and stand over him, the urge to inflict more pain on him is almost unbearable and I can feel tears welling up, from anger or hate or pity I can’t tell. Maybe all of those emotions and more.
I walk off away from him. Am I callous? Almost definitely. Am I right? It’s not for me to decide.
The videos that have gone viral around Britain these last few weeks have disgusted me and every other right thinking human.
The lone 84-year old man protesting outside the Houses of Parliament where protests have been banned for a decade. The moment a huge NDF bloke in full armour butted the man with his rifle end is our Tiananmen Square Tank Man.
The teenagers in Beverley fighting for their right to an education, not an elite-led experiment for their robot supply companies. The NDF sprayed them with rubber bullets and then water cannon. Two kids died from related injuries and six were blinded.
And so it got worse, drone attacks in Burnley, the sinking of a fishing boat by the police off the coast near Southend.
I feel my phone buzzing. I forgot I even had it with me. I take out the phone and my spirits lift again. The EuroNews app is our only source of unbiased news. The government have tried banning it but cleverer folk than me can get round the firewall.
RIOTS SPREAD ACROSS THE UK
MANCUNIANS REPELS STATE FORCES
BBC HQ IN FLAMES TAKES CHANNELS OFF AIR
SOLDIERS & POLICE BEGIN TO DESERT GOV’T
The tide is turning. Please God, make it so. It has felt like the momentum finally shifted to our side yesterday. But you never know if that is just the camaraderie and spirit after what happened last night.
NDF troops had poured in to Piccadilly Garden on a tram. Not just a normal tram but one they had armoured up like some bizarre cross between Mad Max and Coronation Street. The tram crashed through the Aytoun Street barricade and it pulled up in front of the bus stops. Hundreds of troops burst out of the doors in unison but were immediately repulsed by our Mega Molotovs.
The vanguard were cut down as huge bright orange fireballs engulfed them. Their crossfire took a good number of our lot but they were on the defensive straight way. The second phase of attack were held up by the bodies of the first soldiers.
However their top class training recognised that they had to retreat back into the armoured tram. From there the firefight began in earnest. Gradually their numbers were dwindling, our snipers were helping to pick soldiers off from the top floors of Primark.
Following one final attempt to shoot and run which had only a minimal impact, they received the order to pull back. They were in disarray as they ran off back down Aytoun Street. We didn’t have the energy to chase them down, instead we made as much noise as a packed Old Trafford or Eastlands on derby day.
“The city is ours! The city is ours!”
We could see that hundreds of NDF troops had been killed or badly injured. This was a rout. People began to collapse in euphoric tiredness. We didn’t know what to do. A lot of people went off to see family, almost in an apologetic manner.
Some of us stayed and actually began to fall asleep in the middle of a bloodbath.
As the bell tower from the Town Hall chimes for six I can see the square is beginning to fill up. This time it is a range of people – old folk, families are showing up in defiance of the Sunday curfew.
This is beginning to add a layer of surreality for me, this is no place for a day out but I can see the people are finally rising up – if this is happening around the country then it’s time up for the government.
I walk off towards Market Street in an aimless manner. I look across and sat leaning on the wall outside Burger King is a familiar face. The surreality increases.
“Alright, our kid,” his voice brings me back to reality.
My brother, the NDF scum of my family.
When he told us a year ago at the dinner table at my parents’ home in Withington my dad just went silent, my mam began to cry and he tried defending his decision, at first spouting the clichés about defending the nation but moving on to all kinds of emotional blackmail about protecting the family.
I told him he was a disgrace and he looked at me, almost through me, and said with a sneering contempt in his voice: “We’ll see how long you last with that attitude you brainwashed prick,”. I couldn’t even respond to his jibe about brainwashing, I went to swing at him when my dad pulled me away. I left the house and haven’t seen him since.
“You look like shite,” I reply, blood has been pouring out of him. He is sat in a puddle of it and he has taken his armour off and his white t-shirt is also covered in it, like a snide United top bought off Longsight market.
I walk over to him and go on to my knees to face him eye to eye.
“You think you’ve won eh, kid?” still the snarling obtuseness, “They’ll be sending over the jets to bomb this shithole any moment,”
“It’s over,” I reply with a barely disguised chuckle, “It’s spread all over the country, every city has rebelled, the revolution has happened,”
“The revolution,” my brother spits out blood and starts to cough, “You think you’re fucking Che Guevara, you muppet,” Contempt fires out of his eyes, the righteousness of the good fascist. I stand up, there’s nothing to gain from this encounter.
I take his handgun lying on the floor a few feet away and walk back to him, my flesh and blood.
I point the gun between his eyes.
“The city is ours, the country is ours,”
I pull the trigger.
by Martin O’Brien based on That’s Entertainment by The Jam.