LONDON – Tens of thousands of demonstrators whistled, chanted, drummed and marched their way through the heart of London on Saturday to protest massive government spending cuts that threaten to leave almost no part of British society untouched.
It was one of the biggest public demonstrations in Britain since 2003, when anti-war rallies were held across the country before the invasion of Iraq. Organizers said that as many as 250,000 people participated in the march. The carnival-like atmosphere was briefly marred by black-clad anarchists who smashed a few shop windows, flung paint bombs and attacked luxury icons such as the Ritz Hotel.
The protesters gathered from all corners of Britain to express their outrage over a whopping $130 billion in cutbacks that the government says are necessary to tame a runaway budget deficit. The retrenchment is expected to result in a radical shake-up of bedrock social services such as welfare and health care and in the elimination of nearly half a million public-sector jobs.
In Hyde Park, the leader of the opposition Labor Party ridiculed Prime Minister David Cameron’s vision of a “Big Society” full of citizen volunteers who plug the holes left by cuts in government spending.
“You wanted to create a Big Society. This is the Big Society, the big society united against what your government is doing to our country,” Ed Miliband said.