Hundreds of thousands of people descended on the centre of London yesterday for the TUC ‘March for the Alternative’, in a largely peaceful protest against government cuts to public services.
However, there were late clashes in Trafalgar Square between a minority of demonstrators and police, that lasted until early this morning as protestors were “contained”.
There were also pockets of violence across the West End, in the afternoon, specifically centring on the Piccadilly area. Anarchists paint bombed shops and windows and doors were smashed, while Fortnum and Mason was occupied and there were 75 arrests. The arrest figure has since risen to over 200.
Estimates placed the number of protestors at between 200,000 and 300,000 which makes the action the largest union-organised demonstration in 20 years and the largest protest in Britain since the anti-war demonstration in 2003.
At a rally in Hyde Park, leader of the Labour Party, Ed Milliband, gave a speech to the crowd saying that the marchers represented the mainstream majority across the UK.
ELL had reporters on the ground throughout the day, following the south London feeder march from Kennington. See how events unfolded; the latest updates are posted at the top of this post.
For more pictures see our Twitter: @eastlondonlines
Latest Update – 23.41: The Met police now say that they are letting protestors out of Trafalgar Square in small groups.
23.05: Two of our reporters have now been caught in a “containment area” just outside Trafalgar Square and are unable to get out. One said: “There seems to be no violence where we are, people are just waiting to see when we may be let out, hopefully it will be soon.”
The number of arrests, for a variety of offences, has now passed 200.
22.35: Met police are asking protestors in Trafalgar Square to think of the “safety of themselves and those around them” as officers are “coming under sustained attack”. Reports of bottles being thrown.
Met police say that a “containment” is now in place around Trafalgar Square, they are asking for people in the square to remain calm. The Met say that there are 200-300 people left in the square.
21.30: Despite reports of clashes between protestors and police in Trafalgar Square, it seems there are between 1,500-2,000 demonstrators left, with some setting up tents for the night.
As things definitely appear to be calming down, and having aching hands after a 10 hour shift, it is time to put this live blog to bed. Thanks very much for reading our coverage. Please come back tomorrow for more photos.
A massive thank you as well to our reporters on the ground: Germaine Arnold, Seb Wheeler, Charlie Cooper, Katie Gibbons, Catalina May, Joey Severn and Sofia Ignatidou and in the office Sarah Redington.
Here are some more of the earlier attack on the Ritz Hotel:
As things seemingly start to slow down, here are some more photos from throughout the day from our Twitter feed:
Our reporter near Fortnum and Mason says: “People are being arrested and being put on the coaches that the police were carried here in this morning.”
It appears that there are several places over the West End where there are mini-kettles and skirmishes. They could continue for a couple of hours yet.
Here is the scene at Trafalgar Square, where dancing seems to be the order of the day:
Met Police are now reporting that 75 people have been now been arrested following disorder and criminal damage in central London They also state that Fortnum and Mason is still a crime scene, but that those not involved in violence have now left the area.
We are getting reports of an impromptu rave which has started near Nelson’s Column. Our reporter says that drum and bass is blaring out of a soundsystem and there is a small fire. “The mood is quite relaxed, there are probably about 500 protestors still left in the square.”
Another reporter in Piccadilly sends this: “Police officer holding cordon at Piccadilly to member of public, ‘you can’t come down here, London’s closed.'”
Here are some photos of firefighters dealing with some of the fires in the area, both on Piccadilly:
One of our reporters near Piccadilly sends this: “Fire engine called to Jermyn street to put out fire started by protestors, while trying to build barricade against police. Top of Regent Street [Piccadilly Circus end] wreathed in smoke as police hold back protestors. Still many people going about their daily business, including restaurants adjacent to the barricade.”
Here are some pictures of the scene at Piccadilly Circus earlier:
Barricades in Jermyn Street, just off Regent Street were set alight by protestors according to our reporters, with the police moving in towards the protestors. The barricades eventually broke and there is burning rubbish all over the street.
Met police have issued a statement that states that there were 28 casualties on the march, with seven needed to be treated in hospital. There were a number of reasons why people were admitted to hospital, the statement reads, including shortness of breath and a suspected fractured hip.
In addition, five police officers were injured. Four were treated for minor injuries at the scene, and one has been taken to hospital with a groin injury.
We are receiving several tweets that wish to make clear that they believe it is the ‘black bloc’ not UK Uncut who are causing the violence. The UK Uncut occupation at Fortnum and Mason continues.
Here is picture of the police protecting a branch of Boots in Paccadilly, in what increasingly looks like a kettle, according to our reporter:
Some more images from Piccadilly, including flares, protestors on Scaffolding and a boy being dragged away from the crowd by police and being thrown into a van, according to our reporter.
According to our reporter a police van was driven into the crowd at Piccadilly to disperse protestors. Forceful arrests were made, which were resisted by the protestors.
Here are some of the photos that have been on our Twitter feed, showing some of the recent events in Piccadilly Circus:
Our reporter in Piccadilly sends this: “Pitched battles between protesters and police around Piccadilly. Current stand off is in Air Street where agitators are throwing rocks and metal bollards at police.”
Still being blighted by technical difficulties, but please bear with us.
Our reporter in Oxford Circus that there may be a potential kettle in progress, but that there far too many protestors to contain them all according to our reporter.
One of our reporters at Piccadilly has said that a “pitched battle” has been happening in the area. There have been injuries and a Lloyds Bank branch has been attacked. Photos coming soon.
Apologises for the lack of updates, we have been experiencing some technical difficulties, we are back now however.
One of our reporters sends testimony of two people who were inside Fortnum and Mason and are part of UK Uncut: “Some people were stealing things and smashing things up. Others tried to stop them. Police are now letting people out but also kettling some outside.”
Our reporter in Piccadilly says that the police have formed a cordon on the junction of Bond Street and Piccadilly and are moving forward. “It looks like they mean business,” he says.
The rally in Hyde Park officially ended at 16.40, with people starting to head home. Although thousands still remain.
Here is the view of a young protestor, Charmelle, 16, from Clapton, who spoke to one of our reporters along Piccadilly. She said: “They [the government] are punishing us for their benefit, something needs to be done.”
Met Police are reporting that four police officers have been injured and one is being treated in hospital. 13 people have been arrested for criminal damage and public order offences.
A Trojan horse [not unlike the one at 11.oo] has been burnt in Oxford Circus.
Lots of rumours around Twitter of potential kettles, but none substantiated as far as we can tell.
Back to Hyde Park, where people are still arriving, Our reporter says: “A real mix of people at Hyde Park. From young people like James Taylor, 20, a student at Kings who says he is worried about his job prospects after finishing university, to Benedict Morris, a retired teacher who is concerned about cuts to pensioners services. Both are on their first ever protest and say they’ll march again.”
Here are a picture of security staff outside Louis Vuitton. The splinter march is moving back to Piccadilly Circus.
Reports suggest that Fortnum and Mason has been occupied by approximately 75 people from UKUncut. Suggestions it has turned into a sit-in.
Here is another view of Hyde Park from one of our reporters: “A group of young protesters has set up a soundsystem in Hyde Park, playing grime music. Reminiscent of last years student protests. Elsewhere people of all ages are picnicking, listening to speakers, queueing for loos and getting fish and chips. Just like a festival.
In contrast to the atmosphere in other areas of London, here is a representation of Hyde Park from one of our reporters:
Our reporters on the ground are just taking a quick phone charging break, normal service will be resumed shortly.
Back to our reporter in Hyde Park, who has been talking to Matthew Whiatle, who has multiple sclerosis, who is part of a group called the black triangle who he says are “disabled people fighting for our future.”
“I’m worried about what local cuts will mean for disabled and sick people, there is the potential for anyone to become sick or disabled.”
Michael Dolan, from the Prison Officers Association, said: “I am here because our prisons have peen privatised and our salaries frozen.”
Met police have said that the march has passed Westminster Underground Station, which is open again.
We are getting reports that police are dressed in riot gear and have clashed with the ‘black bloc’ in Waverton Street. A Porsche dealership is being attack on Davies Street next to Bond Street Station, see below:
Our main photographer, Germaine Arnold is reporting that he has been hit with batons and is limping. He has seen protestors with injuries.
One of our reporters in Hyde Park has been speaking to some of the peaceful demonstrators in Hyde Park. Helen Drinkwater is on the march with her children Milly, eight and Eddie, six. “I’m worried about my kid’s education and their future, as they will have to pay back large student loans. I’m a teacher and I am worried about my job, my pension, and having to work until I am 65, as it is a stressful job.”
Calm seems to have been somewhat restored as the ‘black bloc has rejoined the main march:
And some more, from the Ritz Hotel:
Here are some assorted photos of the violence around the Ritz and several banks:
Our reporters in Hyde Park say that the atmosphere is in complete contrast to that seen around Oxford Street, with people being peaceful and chatting. It is a minority that are not following the peaceful official route.
Our reporters are now approaching Hyde Park Corner, where protestors tried to smash the windows of a Starbucks before realising the amount of people inside. Our reporter says “It has calmed down a lot though.”
Our reporters are on the scene, where the Ritz Hotel is being attacked, photos coming shortly.
One of our reporters has seen the the ‘black-bloc’ attacking shops on the way down Piccadilly. He says: “The anarchists are actively fighting with members of the press and trying to stop them taking photos. There are paint and graffiti everywhere.”
Here are some more photos of the ongoing violence, here are some photos of the vans that were attacked:
The photos below show the door and the windows of the HSBC being smashed. Our reporter says that armed police came and cleared the building of people after a few minutes.
Here are some photos of what has happened outside HSBC:
A group from the ‘black bloc’ have just destroyed three riot vans, attacking police with cones, bins, flares and paint bombs, according to one of our reporters. Our reporter suggests that the group are now moving towards Ann Summers.
Our reporters have now moved down to Shaftsbury Avenue where a police van was attacked, smashing windows and covering it with paint. The police van has just driven away looking like a demoralised vehicle.
One of our reporters has seen the HSBC at Cambridge Circus being vandalized with paint, graffiti, and smashed windows. Four or five police were over run by protestors. Protestors have broken down the door and are occupying the building.
Some more quotes from Ed Milliband in Hyde Park:
“When people ask who will stand up for the mainstream majority of Britain, let us say ‘we are’” and “Standing up for justice, standing up for fairness and standing up for change. We will prevail”
Here is a photo of Boots getting hit by paint bombs:
One of our reporters has seen a legal observer taken away with a head injury during the confrontation between protestors and police outside Topshop, Oxford Street.
And some from Ed Milliband, leader of the Labour Party at the rally:
“This government will say this is a march of the minority. They are so wrong”
“David Cameron, you wanted to create a big society; this is the big society”
“We stand today not for the minority, we stand for the mainstream majority of Britain.”
Some quotes from Brendan Barber the head of the TUC at the rally in Hyde Park:
“They’re taking us for fools. This British people will not be taken for fools”
“They’re going to hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. Anyone that tells you different is a bare-faced liar”
“If David Cameron wants to see the big society he can come down to Hyde Park.”
One of our reporter says that the protestors are throwing colour bombs at an RBS near Bond Street.
Shoppers are looking nervous on Regent Street according to our reporters, firecrackers are going off and making people jump.
Here are some photos of the “black bloc” outside Regents Street and onto Piccadilly Circus:
The anarchists are now on Regents Street and have broken through a police line. They have set off a yellow smoke flare that one of our reporters says “looks harmless”. Another of our reporters says that a group in hoods are headed up to Oxford Circus.
A splinter March composed exclusively of anarchists is on its way to Regent Street. One says “We’ll probably cause some trouble and then go to Hyde Park”, according to one of our reporters.
The Met police are now advising that people “continue on the march past the Trojan Horse effigy in Downing Street”. It seems that the model [see 11.00] made it all the way.
CORRECTION: The Met police are now saying the rear of the march is still at Embankment.
One of our reporters says that he has heard of a reputable source that there were scuffles on Embankment between protestors and police, but this has not been confirmed by sight.
The rear of the march is now at Piccadilly. Our reporter in Trafalgar Square says there are lots of drums and Vuvuzelas going off in the square.
One of our reporters in Parliament Square says: “Noise of crowd reaches fever pitch as march passes Downing St [along Parliament St], with booing and whistles, but no one stays long to make their point. Doesn’t seem likely that this section will deviate from schedule and route. Carnival mood. Theres even a marching band. The ceremonial horse guard is still on duty at Horse Guards Parade – pretty unconcerned by it all.”
The Met Police has said the head of the march is at Hyde Park, which is the point of the main rally.
Here are some more photos showing the police presence near Parliament Square:
Here are some images of the route moving over Westminster Bridge and arriving in Parliament Square:
One of our reporters has to speaking to Chris Knight, who our reporter says was instrumental in redirecting the feeder march away from the planned route and towards Parliament. He said that his goal is to “shake Parliament to it’s foundations and overthrow the regime like they did in Egypt.” Our reporter says it seems like the march on Westminster was an intentional resistance of the organised TUC march. Police in motorbikes are moving into position, adapting to the crowds change of route.
One of our reporters says that the feeder march has now taken a surprise diversion across Westminster Bridge and is now joining up with the main march in Parliament Square.
It seems that the feeder march is now splitting somewhat, our reporter says that the official route was across Blackfriars Bridge and stewards are “frantically” trying to move the march that way. But Chris Knight (see comment at 11.33) is moving the march towards Waterloo Bridge. The march is now going off route.
The south London march has reached the Imperial War Museum, below, while the main march has reached Downing Street.
Our reporters estimate there are at least 3,000 people marching from south London now, but the march has been stopped by police, much to the consternation of those marching.
One of our reporters spoke to Oscar, a 21 year old from London, from the group the South London Solidarity Federation, who describes himself as an anarcho-communist seeking a stateless, classless society. He is wearing a black balaclava. Asked why he said “Why shouldn’t I wear a mask. We live in an observation state, it is my right not to show my face. The police think their priority is to protect the public but they are only protecting the ruling classes. If we see someone being arrested we will seek to de-arrest them”
Here are some pictures of the early part of the march. Those dressed in black in the picture to the right are the South London Solidarity Federation.
However, the Met police are reporting that Waterloo Bridge is heavily congested for pedestrians and they suggest using Blackfriars or Millennium Bridge to join the march.
The plan has changed for the south London feeder march according to our reporter. Instead of heading to meet the march at Blackfriars, the march has set off and is heading to Waterloo. He said: “I’m not sure how well this will go down with the police, but they are lined up on the edge of the street and are letting us walk towards Waterloo by the looks of things.”
There are over 1,000 people in Kennington park now according to our reporters.
Our reporter has been speaking to Chris Knight, 68, from the group known as the TUC Armed Wing. He said that the group is not violent but will be using direct action such as occupations. “The locations of our occupations are on a need to know basis. But at 2.11pm today, there will be a coordinated move to occupy banks. I expect this protest to last all weekend.”
Another mother, Sarah, 46, who has her two children on the march said: “I’m here for my kids. If I don’t do this then what will life be like for them. I just don’t know.”
The Met police have confirmed that the march now stretches from all the way from Embankment to Temple Avenue, EC4.
Another of our reporters has spoken to Louise King, 37, from Lambeth, who is campaigning with the group No Cuts For Kids, a coalition of the country’s mothers against cuts to children’s services, particularly Sure Start, which is facing a 40 per cent cut in Lambeth. She and other mothers have brought young children in push chairs to the march, and have been advised by organisers to avoid Hyde Park, where they expect police to kettle protesters.
Louise said “I am concerned for their safety but this is so important. Sure Start does so much for mothers and children. David Cameron will learn he can’t walk all over mums.”
We are getting reports from nearer the front of the march that it already stretching back from Embankment down to St Paul’s Cathedral, which is a distance of over a mile. One of our reporters has also bumped into a group called ‘Aberdeen against Austerity’ who have come a long way in support of the march.
In Kennington, the crowd are currently being addressed by a TUC speaker, see picture below. The other image is of protestors getting up close to the police surveillance team.
For anyone who is planning on going to the march, the Metropolitan Police have said that Westminster tube station was closed at 10.45 due to congestion and has asked protestors to use alternative routes.
Here is a picture of that Trojan horse:
A large Trojan horse has been carried into Kennington park, to the cheers of the gathered crowd. Tommy Butt, 22, a student at Camberwell College of Arts who helped make the Trojan horse said it represents “the promises of the Liberal Democrats hiding the reality of cuts. It will be nice to leave it as a little present at Downing Street.”
There is a growing crowd in Kennington Park, 300 at least according to our reporter. Groups represented include Lewisham Against Cuts, Socialist Worker Party, Lambeth Unison, Southwark Save Our Services. Our reporter has spoken anarchist group from West Yorkshire who say they have come to London to exercise their democratic right and don’t anticipate any violence.
We are getting our first reports through on the ground. One of our reporters spoke to Toby Abse, 50, a lecturer in history at Goldsmiths: “Although Michael Gove said on the radio this morning that the government will not change it’s mind, I think the government is a weak coalition that is divided internally. Neither party has a mandate, if this march is big enough it could get the government to crack a little. It is not impossible, today is the start of a process.”
Hello and welcome to our coverage of the ‘March for the Alternative’. Our reporters will be following the south London feeder march. For information regarding the march and what is happening in each of our boroughs, see here. Also, see our comment for reasons why you might want to march.