Peterloo’s Jailers

They put the memorial behind bars. Behind their fences, angry little frames, on their side of the divide.

Their conference is held upon the ruins of St Peter’s Field, in a shed once called Manchester Central Station. The rails had brought further riches to the cotton town, not to be shared. The dirty great arch covered the blood of the slaughtered of Peterloo, as it was known, that great assembly of all of the districts of Manchester, to demand their voices be heard.

They were chopped down.

Did they start something? We could sure do with some of that spirit now. This is not a democracy. It has only ever been the shell of such a thing, or the scaffolding, if I dare dabble with hope. Now they are rolling back the years.

You want to vote? Show me your papers. Your papers!

They put the memorial up last month. They forgot to tell anybody. The names of the dead climb its steps until you, the living, reach its peak. It is a pulpit, designed so you feel like you are addressing the world. So that – yes! – the ghosts of Peterloo’s slain may mount you and embibe you with the belief that your voice matters as much as any soul – more so! – that may cower in that shed behind, carving up our remaining commonality, on a tattered map, in a putrid scramble. No firsts among equals atop these steps, only turns taken to be heard.

No great fanfare accompanied its unveiling. Best not to let the people know what great reservoirs of power lie beneath all of us, perhaps. More likely, it simply slipped their mind. It’s hard to stay useful when squeezed on all fronts. (They forgot, too, to put a ramp on it…it’s no pulpit for those most often ignored…)

Not that accessibility is an issue today. That which should be the axis of protest against the descendants of those who would sooner shoot a democrat than hear their words, those who would barricade themselves away with their decisions in their farce entitled “The Will of the People”, is locked away. On their side, they may look upon it with absent curiosity, those who lost their shit when it was suggested that a statue of Cecil Rhodes (considered a genocidal maniac by his peers) be taken away from public eyes. But the Peterloo platform – well, that’s access to certified personnel only.

Move along now.

The protest will swell on the streets nearby, and we will do our best to amplify our despair, but…distant. Without our pulpits, we cannot call such criminals by their crimes. Cannot say “racism” without reprimand. Cannot treat our sick without a photo opportunity. Is that a rock thrown through the window? Or a humbug? What chance have you got against a tie and a crest…

You didn’t actually think this place was for you, did you?

In a few days, the mean little fences will fall, and the goons in gilets jeunes who kept it, they will be gone too. Go on through, it’s ok. But the people you have come to address are by now far, far away. Thing is, you were never even close. The fence was just a mirage, masking a Great Wall that grows bigger by the day.

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