20 Jun 2015

Anti-austerity protests: thousands march against cuts

Flares, placards, whistles and a few celebrities – the streets of London are filled with protesters calling for an end to the government’s austerity cuts.

Protest organisers said that a quarter of a million people are thought to have joined the march to Parliament Square on Saturday, though official police figures are yet to be released.

Among those marching was Charlotte Church, who told Channel 4 News that austerity is “not the only option”.

“It’s unnecessary, it’s unethical and we’re not going to have it,” she said.

End Austerity march in London

The march began in London’s financial district to the sound of drums and was led through the city by a brass band trio.

Placards waving in the crowd carried slogans such as “Cuts Kill”, “Defy Tory Rule” and “End Austerity Now”. There were also plenty of placards with more colourful language – aimed at the government and banks.

End Austerity march in London

The march has passed largely without incident. As protesters passed Downing Street a flare was let off and a loud boo erupted.

Later in the day a group of protesters set fire to placards on Great George Street, just off Parliament Square.

In the square itself crowds heard from a range of speakers including Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Russell Brand, Charlotte Church and Unite the Union General Secretary Len McCluskey.

“We’re here to remind the government that 76 per cent of people did not vote for them,” Ms Lucas said from the stage.

“I’m less worried about that building crumbling”, she continued, indicating the Palace of Westminster, “and more worried about democracy crumbling.”

End Austerity march in London

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also took to the stage, saying that “24 per cent is not a mandate for austerity” and that “David Cameron’s cabinet of millionaires are the real spongers”.

Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn told the crowd: “The people who marched in this square in the 1850s with the people’s charter were dismissed.

“Within 20 years we had universal education. Within 70 years we had a universal health service”.

End Austerity march in London

Sam Fairbarn, of the People’ Assembly – organisers of the march – said: David Cameron thinks that his small majority means that he can do whatever he wants to us over the next five years without opposition. “He’s wrong. We are that opposition.”

The crowd also heard poetry from Birmingham’s poet laureate Stephen Morrison Burke.

And away from the streets of London, the protest was also gathering steam online. The #EndAusterityNow hashtag has featured in more than 100,000 tweets over the past 24 hours.