VIDEO: March on Stoke protesters vow to keep up pressure over city council's Hanley HQ move
CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans for a £40 million new civic headquarters are already planning their next demo – days after marching through the streets of Stoke-on-Trent.
Now the March On Stoke team has vowed to keep up the pressure on Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
It is planning another demo this Thursday outside the existing Civic Centre, in Stoke, which has been timed to coincide with a budget-setting meeting at 5.30pm.
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Saturday's event saw a placard-waving procession head off from the proposed site of the council's new HQ in Cannon Street, Hanley.
Demonstrators – who were led by a huge banner in the shape of a white elephant – were of all ages and from all political persuasions.
Throughout the route along College Road, The Avenue, Boughey Road and Leek Road, they were greeted by car horns sounded in support by passing motorists.
The march ended with a rally outside the civic offices, in Glebe Street, Stoke, where the crowd chanted: "There's nothing wrong with this one."
From a platform next to the city's cenotaph, the crowd was told those who gave their lives in warfare would have supported them.
Organiser Alan Barrett, aged 57, of Campbell Road, Stoke, said: "People from all backgrounds are here for one reason – to stop this disaster from happening.
"It will not create a single job, but will destroy many.
"If this many people turn out on a cold February morning, just think of the numbers we will get on a hot summer's day.
"People have knocked this city for decades. But today shows that the residents really care.
"This movement will now grow and grow until it can no longer be ignored by the council."
Many of the marchers said they had turned out because they were furious that scarce taxpayers' money was being used for the building project, which aims to kick-start Hanley's proposed Central Business District.
Others argued that, instead of regenerating the city centre, it would destroy jobs and businesses in Hanley's shopping district.
Some said they had joined the march to vent their feelings against other city council cost-cutting policies, such as the aborted plan to close Dimensions leisure centre, in Burslem, and the shutdown of care homes and Tunstall pool.
The rally even brought together activists from the right wing UKIP Party and the left wing Socialists.
Speakers came from all parts of the city and beyond and ranged from pensioners and small businessmen to the clergy and children.
Many wore white elephant masks and Father John Stather, aged 33, vicar of Christ Church, Tunstall, said from the platform: "Elephants never forget and we will not forget this when we vote the council out.
"The cenotaph remembers the many men from this city who sacrificed their lives – I feel they are with us in support today." Another speaker, Betty Lewis, aged 71, from Trent Vale, said: "I have lived in the city all my life and have never been on a protest before.
"But this is a scandal too far, especially if the Civic Centre is now demolished."
Martin Peet, who has a sweet shop in Stoke, told the audience: "They talk about it costing £30 million, but with this council it is bound to rise to £70 million or £80 million and you will be paying for it for the rest of your lives.
"They don't know what they are doing and have already ruined Hanley.
"You have the power to bring the council down and send out a message to them that they have no mandate to move this building."
Among the marchers were Paula Stanyer and her six-year-old son, Charlie, of Sandyford.
They carried posters protesting the closure of Tunstall pool and pictures of council leader Mohammed Pervez and chief executive John van der Laarschot with their eyes missing.
Paula said: "In making these cuts, they seem to have turned a blind eye to the people they serve."
And Rob Barrs, aged 37, who has run Replay Records in Hide Street, Stoke, for 10 years, added: "What with competition from downloading we are under enough pressure already, without this terrible move of ripping all these council jobs out of the town."