The Tory Party Conference 2023 has seen huge protests as public distrust in the police hits an all-time high. So what happened? 

Greater Manchester Police mobilised a huge number of officers under “Operation Protector” to lock down streets and venues where the conference would be taking place. Manchester residents were subjected to armed police patrols and sniffer dogs, while Police promised to welcome people to their “vibrant, friendly city”.

Police harassment began early when officers stopped four coaches and a car carrying Keep Our NHS Public campaigners and searched them on suspicion of planning “direct action” as part of their protest. Legal observers at the scene noted that officers appeared to be filming activists on their personal mobile phones.

This stop gives us a clear indication of how the police plan to use their new search powers—to harass and target people, just like they’ve done to racialised communities for decades. The sweeping new search powers promised to police in the new Public Order Act may not yet be in force, but police are already keen to use them.

As the protests unfolded, police harassment continued. Heavy surveillance and harassment continued, with Disabled People Against Cuts complaining that police threatened to physically remove them. A Tory delegate was also removed from the Conference by police after challenging Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s transphobic, racist speech from inside the hall.

A big shout out to Green and Black Cross Manchester for all their work monitoring the protests!

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