Having apparently been the only city councillor to have attended and supported the very first Justice for the Women of Sunderland demonstration at Keel Square a few months ago, I decided to go along to the recent Sunderland Unites etc demonstration at the same location.
The thrust of their message was to oppose racism, which I fully support, and also in addition, as a councillor from the east area of the city who sits on various committees, some with the police, I have always thought it very important to observe these events at first-hand.
Unfortunately after a warm and sincere welcome from the local clergy, as time progressed it became clearly evident that the usual political suspects were in full force, namely the Socialist Workers Party, some other Marxist organisation and a branch of the Communist Party, all totally unrepresentative of the vast majority of the people of Sunderland.
Speakers also strayed into stereotypical left-wing political rhetoric.
There was absolutely no sign of any of the three Sunderland MPs, though apparently one was on holiday, and no sign of any council leaders. None either chose, or were not asked, to speak.
So what transpired was certainly not a gathering where the views of the majority actively involved in city politics were voiced.
And although there were a good number of well-intentioned local people in attendance, this event was ultimately dominated by extreme left wing parties/bodies. For such a future demonstration to gain more mainstream credibility way beyond its current very restricted base, the organisers are really going to have to think again.
Other than the previously mentioned Justice for Women event – by a distance the most impressive I have attended – this was the third such demonstration in the city I have witnessed, the two others being near the railway station and in park lane.
The most recent was the only one where I was very relieved no one got hurt, as it was worrying when both sets of demonstrations got too close.
Two contrasting groups with views miles apart was not a safe environment and the police on the ground did a very good job.
That said the freedom of people to march and demonstrate peacefully, working closely with the police, is part of our political process. So long as Sunderland is not targeted by both groups on a regular basis then this, of course, should always be their democratic right.
Coun Michael Dixon, Conservative,
St Michael’s Ward