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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Council accused of censoring demo
Anti-war protest in Albert Square
There have been previous anti-war protests in Albert Square
Anti-war protesters have accused Labour of censorship after they were banned from holding a peace camp near the party's annual conference.

Military Families Against The War had planned to camp near the conference in Manchester but have been banned by the city's Labour council.

Providing facilities for the campers would not be logistically possible, a council spokesman said.

The Labour Party conference starts at the G-Mex centre on 22 September.

On Wednesday, it was revealed the police operation covering the event would be the "biggest the city has ever seen".

'Doing government's bidding'

About 20 activists were denied permission to pitch tents in Albert Square in front of the Town Hall from 21 September on health and safety grounds.

Rose Gentle, from Glasgow, whose 19-year-old son Gordon died in Iraq in 2004 said the council were "doing the government's bidding".

Manchester Town Hall
We cannot logistically provide facilities for camping in Albert Square
Council spokesman

"We think it's because it's the Labour conference and they don't want us going and voicing our opinions because Mr Blair is going to be there," she said.

"They say it's health and safety. They said they don't want drunks thinking it's somewhere they can sleep. But we've got our own security."

Mrs Gentle said they were still planning to go ahead with the camp.

A spokesman for Manchester City Council said: "We recognise that it is vital we work together so the city runs smoothly while at the same time protesters are allowed to air their views in a lawful way.

"We cannot logistically provide facilities for camping in Albert Square."

A police spokesman said: "Greater Manchester Police supports the public's right to peaceful protest.

"However this is a matter for Manchester City Council."

Extra visitors

Launching the police operation, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Thomas of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said that security would be tight.

Up to 1,000 officers each day would provide "robust" policing to cover anyone entering the "island" zone around the G-Mex.

He said: "There is no specific threat to Manchester at the moment but obviously the UK's national threat level is currently severe.

"But, of course, with the Prime Minister and the seat of government coming here we have high-level people to protect and there is an added risk."

About 17,000 extra visitors are expected to begin arriving in the city from 22 September for the five-day conference.

The Home Office has given GMP 4.2m to police the conference.


SEE ALSO
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12 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
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05 Aug 06 |  UK Politics
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10 Jun 06 |  UK Politics

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