Thousands gather for start of anti-austerity demonstration in central London

Thousands of protesters gather outside the Bank of England in central London to begin an anti-austerity march through the city.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (JUNE 20, 2015) (REUTERS) – Thousands of protesters gathered to march through central London on Saturday (June 20) to demonstrate against the newly re-elected Conservative government’s plans for public spending cuts.

Holding banners saying “Austerity Ends Austerity” and “Cut War Not Welfare”, protesters packed streets outside the Bank of England in the heart of London’s financial district to listen to speeches before marching towards parliament.

“I just don’t think the poor should suffer from the mistakes of the rich. It’s affecting the vulnerable, the disabled, the mentally ill,” said one protester Aaron Davis.

“People who are just unlucky. Perhaps have not had the best start in life. And they are suffering because of the mistakes of the few at the top.”

Another protester, waitress Anna Rachel Rowlands, told Reuters austerity measures were affecting work opportunities for young people.

“I think there’s a genuine need to stop austerity and cuts to the vulnerable. The government seems almost obsessed with cutting benefits for younger people looking for work.”

Protesters were due to be addressed later by celebrities including comedian Russell Brand, who was seen talking to people in the crowd.

Singer Charlotte Church, as well as trade unionists and Jeremy Corbyn, a contender for the vacant leadership of the opposition Labour Party, were also expected to speak.

Britain’s Conservatives unexpectedly won an outright majority in a national election last month after five years when they had led a coalition focused on cutting public spending to narrow Britain’s large budget deficit.

Since winning the election, finance minister George Osborne has said he wants government departments to make extra cuts this year and to commit future governments to run budget surpluses during normal economic times.

“At the election, like, everyone says the Tories got a majority but they only got about 800 or 600,000 more votes than what they got in 2010. They didn’t get a big mandate for their poor manifesto which is what they’re claiming – 25 per cent of people voted Tories. You know that’s nothing. I think everyone is like, a lot of people from up and down the country are here because they’ve just had enough. They’ve had enough of austerity, of cuts, of privatisation. They don’t agree with it,” said protester Gareth Hardy.

The protest was organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an umbrella group with support from trade unions, anti-war protesters and some Labour and Green Party politicians.

Neither police nor organisers had an immediate estimate for the number of marchers. More than 80,000 people had said on social media that they would attend.

The last major demonstration in central London was in October, when the Trades Union Congress said up to 90,000 of its supporters marched to call for higher wages.

A 2011 march organised by the TUC as part of pan-European anti-austerity protests attracted several hundred thousand marchers.