26 Mar 2011

Thousands protest in London against spending cuts

Tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating against government cuts to public spending. There were clashes between police and protesters in parts of London with 75 arrests.

TUC sources estimated up to half a million activists had taken to the streets in the biggest protest for years.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said the turnout was “absolutely enormous and showed the anger of ordinary working people at the Government’s cuts”.

The protest was largely peaceful but a breakaway group of hundreds of protesters attacked shops and banks in the Oxford Street area.

Read more: Cutsmap - show us where the spending cuts are

Topshop and HSBC had their windows smashed, while paint and glass bottles were thrown at a Royal Bank of Scotland branch.

A sit-in organised by the campaign group UK Uncut took place at Fortnum & Mason department store in Piccadilly. The group has previously mounted protests against tax avoidance measures by big businesses

Fireworks and flares were set off and activists scuffled with police.

Scotland Yard said light bulbs filled with ammonia were thrown at officers. Around 75 people were arrested and five police officers were injured – one is being treated in hospital.

Many of the protesters covered their faces with scarves and carried black and red flags.

They shouted “whose streets, our streets” and held placards which read “No cuts!”.

With this number of people, the government have to take notice. Richard Evans, protester

But the main group of the marchers demonstrated peacefully and walked along the pre-planned route from Embankment to Hyde Park.

Steel bands, choirs, performers and dancers performed while the mass of people, many with their children in tow, blew horns and whistles as they passed alongside Parliament.

Richard Evans, 46, walked 166 miles from Cardiff to join the march.

“I wanted to encourage people to get on a bus. I think the best way to do that is to go a step further,” he said.

Mr Evans, who works in an HMRC contact centre, set off last Saturday and arrived in London around 8pm last night.

“The whole point of this is the government looks again at the cuts.

“I’m hoping there is enough people here to make them realise when you’re in the position you’re in – in the coalition government – you need to think again.

“With this number of people, the government have to take notice.”

Thousands protest in London against spending cuts (Getty)

Opposition support

Labour leader Ed Miliband told protesters at a mass rally today that he was proud to stand with them as huge numbers of people demonstrated against spending cuts.

Mr Miliband told the TUC rally in London’s Hyde Park that the Government was wrong to make such deep cuts in public services.

He was heckled by a small number of protesters when he said that “some cuts” were needed, but most people applauded his speech.

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The Labour leader did not join a march through central London but did address the rally.

“The Tories said I shouldn’t come to speak here today but I am proud to stand with you.

“People are here from all walks of life and different backgrounds, speaking for mainstream Britain”