Via Al Jazeera
Tens of thousands of people have rallied in London, the British capital, in opposition to public spending cuts introduced by the country’s coalition government.
Organisers said that Saturday’s demonstration could be the biggest rally in the capital since mass protests against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Crowds of demonstrators, including public sector workers, pensioners and students, kicked off the “March for the Alternative” along the banks of the river Thames.
Many protesters carried banners reading “Don’t Break Britain”, “No to Cuts” and “Defend Our Public Services”, while others blew vuvuzelas, the plastic trumpets made famous during the South African football World Cup.
Families with children were among the protesters and steel bands, choirs and dancers also joined the march, giving a carnival atmosphere to the demonstration.
Tim Friend, Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the march, said: “It’s all good fun for many people here but there is a serious message as well, which the government will be watching very carefully.
“There are ‘unsung heroes’ here, from communities across Britain who have come down to London.
“The closure of their projects [due to cuts] for their local communities might not get much publicity, but for the people who use those services it will be absolutely devastating.”
Police said that about 4,500 officers would be deployed, after last years protests by student against plans to triple university tuition fees saw outbreaks of violence.
During Saturday’s protest, a group of black-clad demonstrators threw paint bombs at shops and banks on the main shopping streets of Oxford Street and New Bond Street.
Police said that some protesters also threw paint bombs and light bulbs filled with ammonia at officers during the demonstration.
The demonstrators are angry at cuts to public spending, rising unemployment, tax rises and pension reforms imposed by the government after it came to power in May.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has announced plans for cuts worth £81bn ($131bn) over five years in order to slash a record public deficit that the party’s blames on the previous Labour administration.
The cuts involve most government departments, with the loss of 300,000 public service jobs and pay freezes for civil servants.
The Liberal Democrats have faced public criticism for supporting the austerity measures, especially the hike in university fees which it had opposed before it came to power.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, spoke at the rally, likening the protest to the suffragette movement in Britain and the civil rights movement in America.
“Our causes may be different but we come together to realise our voice. We stand on the shoulders of those who have marched and have struggled in the past,” he told protesters gathered in London’s Hyde Park.
The UK march is the latest protest against austerity measures to take place in Europe where governments are struggling to bring down record deficits following bailouts and bank nationalisations in the wake of the financial crisis.