About 500,000 people attended a protest march in London against the government’s spending cuts over the weekend. Though peaceful, the protests were accompanied by clashes with the police.
The anti-cuts march on Saturday was the most crowded for the past eight years which saw a number of mass rallies, mainly against Britain’s participation in the war in Iraq when people expressed their anger at the Labor government of Tony Blair for so unceremoniously unleashing a military campaign against Iraq. Now, people in Britain are opposing domestic policies of the coalition government of David Cameron. Protests began after the government announced plans to slash spending by 80 billion pounds over the next five years to reduce the country’s domestic debt which has reached catastrophic proportions. The new deficit-cutting strategy – the most extensive since the Second World War – may lead to about half a million job cuts in the public sector, reductions in healthcare spending and cuts in pension and higher education funding.
School and university students across Britain have repeatedly voiced their protests over a rise in tuition fees over the past few months. Now, they have been joined by representative of other sections of society. This weekend’s “march of the discontent” in London organized by the TUC went off peacefully but as it often happens in such cases, it attracted about two hundred aggressively minded young people in masks who later separated from the marchers and attacked shops and banks. The mobsters, smashing windows and daubing the police with paint, made Trafalgar Square, Oxford and Regent Streets and Piccadilly resemble battlefields. 84 people, including 30 police officers, were injured during the clashes.
Many of the rampaging youths were arrested and the police are currently probing who sponsored them. But despite the high professionalism of Scotland Yard investigators, the names of the organizers of Saturday’s unrest are unlikely to be disclosed as they normally keep in the shadow and their identities are never revealed to the general public. Radically minded forces are present in every country, and Britain is no exception. Still, the manner of expressing anger at government policies in Britain tends to be more democratic and peaceful as compared to elsewhere.
But Britain is changing with the rest of the world. Some observers draw a parallel between the recent developments in Arab countries and the Saturday march in London and compare the protests in Trafalgar Square with those in Tahrir Square in Cairo. If these observers are right, at least in part, then the government in Britain must have driven the country’s population to a dangerous extreme.