Students were prominent among those who attended the break-away \”anarchist\” march on Saturday, while the official TUC organised anti-cuts protests were taking place on Saturday.
While a peaceful march along Whitehall to Hyde Park was taking place, a few hundred people quickly broke off from the march to stage their own independent protest.
Roaming through Piccadilly, Oxford Street and Trafalgar Square, the self-styled \”Anarchists\” were immediately distinguishable from all other protestors due to their red and black hoods and flags, and their drum and bass sound-system.
Scotland Yard has claimed that the violence of this ‘mob\’, who smashed windows, threw paint and attacked police officers, \”could not have been more markedly different\” to the official TUC (Trade Union Congress) event. Even campaign group UK Uncut, who were protesting against alleged tax avoidance by many big businesses, and occupied luxury grocery store Fortnum & Mason, sought to distance themselves from the ‘Anarchists\’.
Many iconic London landmarks, including the Ritz Hotel, Trafalgar Square, and Oxford Street\’s Topshop, were the target of attacks.
Despite this, out of the 201 people arrested by the 4,500 police on duty on Saturday, 149 of whom have already been charged, 145 of the arrests were reportedly made on the basis of UK Uncut\’s occupation.
At the official rally in Hyde Park, set to be the largest public protest since the rally against the Iraq War in 2003, speakers ranged from TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, to Labour party leader Ed Miliband and Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in Blackadder. Many made personal comments about government ministers, with one speaker even calling for \”Nick Clegg to go to the naughty corner\”. Some at the march also called for a General Strike or a mid-week protest.
Protestors commented that the atmosphere in Hyde Park was totally different to the ‘frontline\’ spots, with orderly queues for the portaloos and Hare Krishnas handing out free food. The crowd was noticeably older, including a large number of women and the disabled.
Despite the large attendance, many student protestors observed that the rally felt relatively empty, and noted a \”lack of energy\” compared to the student-led protests against the raising of tuition fees and cuts to higher education earlier this year.
Charlie, a recent-graduate from Edinburgh University, asked \”Is this it?\”, whilst Laurence, a young student photo-journalist, said, \”This just couldn\’t be more different\”.
Many students were torn between staying at the peaceful rally, and joining the more \”exciting\” clashes at various other locations. Some even decided to slip away from the protest, and join friends to watch the Oxford Cambridge Boat race.
With Business Secretary Vince Cable stating that the Government was \”listening\”, but \”not going to change the basic economic strategy\”, the full impact of the anti-cuts march is as of yet unclear.