Tens of thousands of people marched through London and other British cities on Saturday in protest against spending cuts by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s struggling coalition government.
Marchers carried signs reading: “No cuts” and “Cameron has butchered Britain,” condemning the austerity measures introduced by Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition in a bid to reduce Britain’s huge deficit.
Police said the main march was peaceful, but two people were arrested as breakaway anarchist groups protested outside major companies, including McDonald’s and Starbucks, in the Oxford Street shopping hub.
Scotland Yard did not provide an estimate for the turnout on the 4.8km march route, but organizers said police had told them that about 100,000 people attended.
“This is not a crisis that is going to sort itself out through cuts,” 19-year-old protester Jonathan said. “We’ve had a double-dip recession now, and we are here today to show we are not going to stand it any longer.”
In Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, about 5,000 people took part in a separate protest, and there was also a march in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Britain climbed out of a deep economic downturn in late 2009, but fell back into recession at the end of last year.
The coalition said after coming to power in 2010 that most ministries’ budgets would be cut by a fifth over four years, while other unpopular measures include a tripling of university tuition fees and a public sector pay freeze.
Protesters paused to boo at Cameron’s Downing Street residence, and shouted: “Pay your taxes” at a Starbucks coffee shop.
Starbucks was embroiled in a row last week after it was reported that the US giant paid just ￡8.6 million (US$13.8 million) in British corporation tax over 14 years.
A smaller group of protesters, many of them masked and clad in black, gathered in Oxford Street to demonstrate against big brands accused of tax avoidance.