A crowd of at least 60,000 anti-austerity protesters in Manchester were watched over by snipers during the march which had been staged to coincide with the Tory Party conference held in the city.
Pictures have circulated on social media showing police marksmen on rooftops in Manchester city centre.
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Activists at the march spotted several snipers along their route and were quick to report it on Twitter. Sharpshooters were seen on the top of several roofs in the city center, with one user, Ben Whittingham, posting an aerial photograph of one of the marksman.
“Just a police sniper on roof of Tory party conference, which resembles a prison,” he tweeted.
Just a police Sniper on roof of tory party conference, which resembles a prison #CPC15pic.twitter.com/RPCYt1YIeH
— Ben Whittingham (@BenWhittingham2) October 4, 2015
City police confirmed the activists’ worst fears, but insisted that the snipers had ben placed on the roofs “purely for observation” as they supported the security on the ground of the event.
I’ve just seen my first rooftop police sniper of the Conservative Party Conference. There are sightings each time it’s held here. — Martin Bryant (@MartinSFP) October 3, 2015
“They are high up for that reason, to observe. And they [the guns] are used for their powerful sight, which is stronger than any pair of binoculars,” a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) spokesperson told the Manchester Evening News.
“They are not there to shoot people,” the spokesperson emphasized.
Meanwhile the police made at least five arrests after a crowd of some 60,000 – according to police estimates – marched against the government’s austerity policies, vowing to “chase the Conservatives out.” The organizers, the Trades Union Congress and The People’s Assembly, insist that as many as 100,000 activists took part in the event.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party and leader of the opposition addressed the crowd.
“We’re here to bring a message of hope to the people of Britain,” he said. “The Tories don’t have a monopoly on visions for people for the future!”
The crowd meanwhile seemed preoccupied with mocking Prime Minister David Cameron with pig jokes and banners telling him not to bomb Syria, cut welfare or slash funding for the National Healthcare System.