Hundreds of thousands of people marched through London on Saturday in a carnival of resistance, protesting against planned austerity measures that threaten to radically shake up Britain’s social services.
The main march snaked through central London, while a small breakaway group attacked upscale London landmarks, including the Ritz Hotel and the Fortnum and Mason luxury goods store.
The Trades Union Congress, which organized the rally, estimated that 250,000 people joined the march, the biggest rally in Britain since the Iraq War protest in 2003. The protesters left a trail of destruction around central London as they smashed bank machines with flag poles, hurled paint bombs at stores and lighted bonfires in the middle of streets. Police arrested 214 people.
Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government has proposed slashing public spending by $130 billion over the next four years in an effort to reduced its swollen deficit. Critics of the austerity plans, including Labor leader Ed Miliband, who addressed the rally on Saturday, say the cuts are too savage, too deep and coming too fast.
Toby Anderton, 37, an illustrator from Nottingham, said was there to support friends who work in health care. “We are passionate about fighting for the NHS,” he said. “If people lose jobs or if it’s partly privatized, it will be the poor who suffer.”