London hosts largest protest since Iraq war as
workers and public demonstrate against
government spending cuts Guardian (UK) March
Around 400,000 people have joined a march in London to
oppose the coalition government's spending cuts.
In what looks like being the largest mass protest since
the anti-Iraq war march in 2003, teachers, nurses,
midwives, NHS, council and other public sector workers
were joined by students, pensioners and direct action
supporters, bringing the centre of the capital to a
Tens of thousands of people streamed along Embankment
and past police barriers in Whitehall. Feeder marches,
including a protest by students which set off from the
University of London in Bloomsbury, swelled the crowd,
which stretched back as far as St Paul's Cathedral.
The biggest union-organised event for over 20 years saw
more than 800 coaches and dozens of trains hired to
bring people to London, with many unable to make the
journey to the capital because of the massive demand
"I'm sure that many of our critics will try to write us
off today as a minority, vested interest," said Brendan
Barber, the general secretary of the Trades Union
Congress, which organised the march.
"The thousands coming to London from across the country
will be speaking for their communities when they call
for a plan B that saves vital services, gets the
jobless back to work and tackles the deficit through
growth and fair tax."
Barber is expected to tell this afternoon's rally in
Hyde Park that there is an alternative to the "brutal"
spending cuts, which have already led to the threat of
170,000 council job losses and another 50,000 elsewhere
in the public sector.
"No part of our public realm is to be protected. And
don't believe it when ministers say that the NHS is
safe in their hands. With over 50,000 job cuts already
in the pipeline - nurses, doctors, physios, midwives -
in the name of so-called efficiency savings of £20bn,
the NHS as we know it is already in intensive care.
"With David Cameron talking about selling it off to any
willing provider out to make a profit, the NHS is
facing the gravest threat in its history. Today let us
say to him: we will not let you destroy what has taken
generations to build. Let's be brutally clear about
these brutal cuts. They're going to cost jobs on a huge
scale - adding to the misery of the 2.5 million people
already on the dole."
The education secretary, Michael Gove, acknowledged the
public's concerns about the planned cuts, but insisted
they were necessary.
"Of course people will feel a sense of disquiet, in
some cases anger, at what they see happening," Gove
told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "But the difficulty
we have, as the government inheriting a terrible
economic mess, is that we have to take steps to bring
the public finances back into balance."
Labour politicians will join the march, and party
leader, Ed Miliband, will address the rally in Hyde
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union,
will tell demonstrators that the government faces being
wiped out in May's elections.
"Every month when a library closes, a care home shuts
its doors, or services for struggling young people are
withdrawn, I want them to feel the fear, and anger of
the people who have come here today from every part of
the UK to vent their frustration and to stand up for a
Banks and stores in Oxford Street are being targeted by
the anti-cuts group UK Uncut. There are also plans to
target a secret location with a mass occupation.
Around 4,500 police officers were on duty, with the
human rights group Liberty sending 100 legal observers
to monitor their actions.
The senior Scotland Yard officer in charge of policing
the protests, Commander Bob Broadhurst, has pledged
that the controversial tactic of "kettling" protesters
into a confined area will be kept to a minimum. "The
issues will be with the fracture groups who might want
to spoil the party," he said.