Sporadic Clashes Erupt as Thousands Protest Cuts
France 24, March 28, 2011
News Wires (text)
Sporadic clashes with police erupted in London on Saturday as a quarter
of a million people marched to protest against proposed budgets cuts
that will include the elimination of 300,000 public service jobs and pay
freezes for civil servants.
Masked rogue protesters battled police and occupied a top London food
store on Saturday, overshadowing a peaceful march by more than a quarter
of a million Britons against government spending cuts.
In the biggest rally in the capital since protests against the Iraq
war in 2003, adults and children joined a demonstration called by unions
against the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition's austerity
But police said 157 people were arrested and 35 people were injured
when a small group of "criminals" split off from the main protest and
rampaged through the capital's commercial district smashing up shops and
"I think it's a game of two halves. Two hundred and fifty thousand
people came to central London and protested peacefully," said Commander
Bob Broadhurst of Scotland Yard, who led the police operation.
"But what we have had unfortunately is a group of criminals,
nothing to do with that march, have decided to on their own steam attack
buildings in central London and attack police officers," he told Sky
Several hundred black-clad protesters covering their faces with
scarves attacked shops and banks and hurled fireworks, petrol bombs and
paint at police, AFP reporters saw.
Clothes store Topshop and banks HSBC and Lloyds had their windows
smashed, while some protesters hurled missiles at London's landmark Ritz
Hotel. Others lit a bonfire at Oxford Circus, in the heart of the
A group of protesters occupied luxury food store Fortnum and Mason
and sprayed graffiti on the building and police surrounded the building,
saying they were treating the area as a crime scene.
UK Uncut, a group running a campaign against government cuts and
corporate tax avoidance, accused the store's owners of tax-dodging.
Five police officers and 30 members of the public were wounded in
the violence, with 16 people including one police officer needing
hospital treatment, Scotland Yard said.
It said there were 157 arrests for public order offences, criminal
damage, aggravated trespass and violent disorder. About 4,500 police
officers were deployed for the protest.
Several British student demonstrations descended into chaos last
year, with one culminating in protesters damaging the car carrying
heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
The violent end to Saturday came after the peaceful rally which
organisers the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said was attended by between
250,000 and 300,000 people.
Public sector workers, students and pensioners waving signs which
read "Don't Break Britain" and "No to Cuts" thronged the streets of the
Many families with children were among the protesters and the air
was filled with the low-pitched bellow of the vuvuzela, the plastic
trumpet whose droning provided the soundtrack for the football World Cup
in South Africa.
TUC chief Brendan Barber said he "bitterly regretted" the violence.
"I don't think the activities of a few hundred people should take
the focus away from the hundreds of thousands of people who have sent a
powerful message to the government today," he said.
The march started by the river Thames, passed the Houses of
Parliament and Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street residence
before ending in a rally in Hyde Park addressed by opposition Labour
Party leader Ed Miliband.
"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," Miliband told the rally.
It was the largest protest in London since one million people
marched against the Iraq war in February 2003.
After coming to power in May, the coalition announced cuts worth
£81 billion ($131 billion, 92 billion euros) over five years in order to
slash a record public deficit it blames on the previous Labour
The cuts involve most government departments, with the loss of
300,000 public service jobs and pay freezes for civil servants.
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