London Protests: Thousands say no to cuts
Hundreds of thousands of people joined in the TUC's 'March for the Alternative' in central London on Saturday.
A carnival atmosphere was generated as crowds estimated at over 400, 000 marched through the capital, from the Embankment to Hyde Park in protest against the coalition government's spending cuts. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison said the numbers far exceeded organisers' expectations and "showed the anger of ordinary working people".
Protesters booed and hissed loudly as they passed Downing Street, during an excellently organised event that otherwise passed peacefully and in high spirits. Away from the main march though, a small minority of masked anarchists hijacked the occasion, using it as an opportunity to cause damage to properties including the Ritz hotel and clash with police. Officers reported having smoke-bombs and lightbulbs filled with ammonia thrown at them.
Later at Hyde Park, crowds gathered to listen to speakers including Labour leader, Ed Miliband and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. Barber spoke out against attacks on pensions, youth unemployment and "cuts that will decimate this country's services". He elicited whoops and cheers from an impassioned crowd when he invited Prime Minister, David Cameron: "If you want to see Big Society in action, come down to Hyde Park!"
Ed Miliband provoked a more mixed reception, with sections of the crowd booing and heckling, particularly when he admitted that some cuts were necessary to reduce the country's deficit. In the main though, he won the audience over with a short but well-delivered speech in which he expressed support for a tax on bankers' bonuses and attacked the government's cuts policy:
" There is a need for difficult choices, and some cuts. But this government is going too far and too fast and destroying the fabric of our communities".
"... Our struggle is to fight to preserve, protect and defend the best of the services we cherish because they represent the best of the country we love".
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