On August 16, 1819 in St. Peter’s Field, Manchester England, 60,000 peaceful protestors marched with banners declaring UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE (at that date even men couldn’t vote, unless they owned land) REPRESENTATION, and LOVE. Other than the cart the speakers stood on, it wasn’t so different from the women’s marches last week.
The Manchester protesters were peaceful, but at the time, the Riot Act was in force. This abominable act had been passed during another turbulent time in the early 18th century. It allowed a mayor, bailiff, sheriff, or any other “head officer” to declare a riot anytime more than twelve people were assembled “Unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously.” If the group didn’t disperse within an hour after the act was read, they were guilty of felony—and punishable by death.