As it boomed, whistled and shouted its way past Manchester Central this afternoon, the TUC’s Save Our NHS march seemed reasonable enough. If they want to disagree with the Conservatives on key policy issues, then so be it, that’s government for you.

But when I decided to watch and photograph what I thought was a peaceful protest, I found that some of the comrades joining in weren’t so keen. A middle-aged man clutching a Socialist Worker grabbed me, demanding to know ‘who are you taking photos for?’. I told him I was taking them for me, and tried to walk away. But then two of his companions joined us.

The gang surrounded me beside a Costa coffee shop and demanded to know, again, who I was with. ‘If you don’t put you f**king camera way, we’ll smash it off your face’. ‘Go and f**k off back to your conference, you p***k’, they said after I managed to escape to the Premier Inn.

I’m not the only one to have a negative experience with the marchers. The Times‘ Tim Montgomerie was spat at, while activist Mahyar Tousi was racially abused while walking down a street.

I was quite taken aback, as nearly every political demonstration I’ve attended has been congenial. I’m very sure this gang of thugs are not representative of majority of those marching through Manchester. In fact, most of those I could see appeared to be health care workers. Surely they will be disappointed by the thugs who think the best way of making the case for a different approach to public policy is threatening bystanders?

Tags: Conservative conference 2013, Manchester, TUC, UK politics