100,000 expected for London march against cuts
The head of Britain's trade union movement said on Friday he was confident that more than 100,000 people will heed a call to protest against the government's austerity measures in London on Saturday.
The "March for the Alternative" is the first major demonstration against deep cuts to public spending, and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is hailing it as the biggest protest it has organised for decades.
"We're certainly going to see well in excess of 100,000 people, possibly many, many more," TUC leader Brendan Barber said.
"It is to make the case that there is an alternative to this relentless focus on the deficit and austerity that we see from the coalition government," he told BBC radio.
"In our judgement (it) is not only going to do such huge damage to jobs, to our services that we rely on, it's actually not going to work, it's not going to bring down the deficit and solve our economic problems."
The march will start on the banks of the Thames before passing in front of the Houses of Parliament and past Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street residence before ending in a rally in Hyde Park.
After taking power in May, the coalition announced measures designed to save £81 billion ($131 billion, 92 billion euros) over five years in order to slash a record public deficit it inherited from the previous Labour government.
The measures, introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, involve cuts to most government departments, the loss of 300,000 public service jobs and pay freezes for civil servants.
Despite the severity of the cuts, mass demonstrations so far have been confined to students protesting against the government's decision to triple tuition fees.
Two of the student demonstrations descended into violence last year, with one culminating in a group of protesters damaging the car carrying heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
Although there is no indication that Saturday's march will turn violent, thousands of police are expected to be on duty.
The march takes place just days after British finance minister George Osborne delivered his annual budget on Wednesday.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne had already announced massive public expenditure cuts via an emergency budget and spending review last year.
© 2011 AFP