Air Campaigners Expose Manchester Hypocrisy
Squall 13, Summer 1996, pg. 51.
THE LABOUR PARTY’S smooth ride towards a Single Party State in Manchester has been ruffled once again by the antics of radical campaign group Fresh Air Now!
Faced with a council which continually places environmental issues at the bottom of its agenda, FAN! have been raging a local media war, focussing attention on the council’s hypocrisy.
Manchester City Council has a stated aim to reduce pollution, which is unsurprising for the city which regularly tops league tables for SO2 and other pollutants. It also has stated policies of encouraging ever greater numbers of cars into the city, supporting the construction of the M66 and a second runway at Manchester Airport, and is currently courting plans for one or more new waste incinerators.
In February the council passed (without any dissenting votes) its response to ‘The Great Transport Debate’ in which it offered no plans to reduce road traffic and claimed, amongst other gibberish, that “cities are intrinsically sustainable”.
For two weeks prior to the May local elections, FAN! staged daily stunts, protests and direct actions. Included in the events were ‘Challenge Anarchy’, an urban regeneration action in Moss Side which turned a wasteland into a garden and playground; an invasion of the City Hall by ‘homeless badgers’ from Runway 2 and the M66 (you’d be astonished how many badgers have long hair and walk on their hind legs); mobile cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings; and a visit to the home of Council Leader Graham Stringer, who refused the offer of the back seat of a tandem to get him to work.
A number of visitors’ passes to the election count allowed FAN! activists to meet councillors and local MPs face to face. They were left in no doubt that their campaign had touched some sensitive nerves. Activist Chris told Squall: “In one breath they were accusing us of being childish yobs and in the next breath shouting ‘Nah nah nah nee nah nah’ at the Tories who had lost their last two seats.”
Graham Stringer stood down as Council Leader immediately after the election in order to pursue his long-held dream of a Westminster bench. His final television interviews showed him fighting for space with an activist wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Stringer holding two fingers aloft and bearing the legend “Reprehensible Yob”, a description he once used of FAN! activists. FAN! are hopeful his replacement will at least hear the arguments of environmentalists before making policy. The new Council will be well aware that even without an opposition in the Council Chamber, the grass roots activists are watching.
For a menu of many other Squall articles about the Anti-Roads Movement, including protest camps, Reclaim The Streets and more click here