“Neon shop signs, the screeching of car tyres and the shouts of men pestering me to come into their shop.”
We recently posted a report from a comrade in Manchester which highlighted problems that occur around the area known to locals as ‘Counterfeit Street’. We reported on the behaviour of Asian men hanging around the doorways of dingy shops packed to the rafters with cheap, counterfeit designer goods.
The police, as is usual in cases like this, were aware of the situation but in reality were doing very little about it. Perhaps if it were a gang of football hooligans they would come down hard.
With the situation becoming more and more acute, the Manchester Evening News sent a female reporter down to see how bad the situation really was. This is her report which was published in the paper on 28.11.2021. The video is not from the newspaper.
Just a short distance from Manchester Victoria station, walking along Bury New Road feels like a world away from the city centre. Within a few yards of Strangeways prison, I’m met with a complete assault on my senses. And one thing is immediately clear – I suddenly feel very uncomfortable.
It’s not a secret that the area of Bury New Road between Manchester city centre and Broughton in Salford has been a problem for police for many years. Officers have openly admitted that “deep-rooted issues” exist in the area, including the sale of drugs, counterfeit clothing, and harassment on the street.
But residents who use the road to go about their daily lives complain the situation is becoming unbearable, and say the area has become effectively “lawless.” One young woman even described the journey to work in the city centre as like “running the gauntlet,” as the streets have become overrun with groups of ‘intimidating men.’
As stories continue to emerge which paint a picture of an area totally out of control, we took a walk on Bury New Road to find out if things have become as bad as people say.
As I start my walk from the prison in the direction of Salford, I notice two girls in front of me wheeling suitcases as they appear to be searching for their accommodation for the night. It’s 3.30pm on a Tuesday afternoon and the area is an absolute hive of activity.
Before long, the girls are approached by numerous young men pacing the street. One man asks if the ‘pretty’ women want to come upstairs to his clothing shop. They politely decline and walk swiftly up the street. He appears to follow them for a few seconds before turning back.
One of the girls looks over her shoulder in my direction and gives me an awkward acknowledging smile about what we both just saw. I smile back reassuringly. They turn off at Howard Street in search of their accommodation, leaving me to continue the walk alone.
As I walk back down Bury New Road towards Manchester city centre on the other side of the road, I am stopped by scores of men, all trying to coax me into their shops. All of them ask me what I’m buying. It seems almost impossible to them that I could be using this public stretch of pavement to go about my daily business.
I try to bat my way past everyone, politely declining offers from men telling me to come into their shop. As I do, one man stops in front of me and tells me to smile. I’m pretty disgusted, but I give him what he wants so as not to draw any further attention to myself. I hear him muttering something under his breath and decide to step up my pace.
As the skyscrapers of the city centre feel that bit closer I breathe a sigh of relief. But it’s short lived. Less than 30 seconds later I’m stopped by another man asking me what I’m buying. I tell him nothing, that I’m just walking into the city centre and thank him anyway. He tuts and tells me if I’m not here to buy anything I should be walking on the opposite side of the street, otherwise I’ll just continue to get harassed.
These men appear to have truly commandeered the street, using tactics of intimidation and harassment to try and get people to spend money in their shops.
I ignore the man and carry on walking. Why should anyone living round here have to change their route to avoid being harangued?
Finally, I’m nearly back at Strangeways and think I can start to relax. But then I notice two men blocking the pavement as they appear to play cricket with each other. I stop to see if they stop launching the ball in the air to let me pass, but of course they don’t. I think about crossing the road but due to the speed of some of the cars, I think better of it.
Instead, I’m forced to move around them, hoping that the ball doesn’t come anywhere near my face. The whole experience is extremely uncomfortable and intimidating, and I realise how notably different things are depending on whether you are a man or woman.
When my male colleague walked along the same stretch of road, at the same time, he wasn’t catcalled or approached by men in the same way that I was. He was able to pass by the mobs of men barely being noticed, until he happened to make eye contact with a man who came over and offered to sell him drugs.
One female resident said when she walks along Bury New Road with her boyfriend, she is never harassed or bothered by men. But as soon as she steps out alone, she said: “I know for a fact that I am going to be approached by men. It always feel unsafe when you’re on your own around here.”
I can just about stand it for the short ten minutes I spend there, but what about for the people who live here and have no alternative route to town if they want to walk?
What I experienced is enough to make anyone take their car, or just not bother altogether.”
Main image: David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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