Thousands join cuts protest march

A quarter of a million people - including thousands from the West Midlands - were protesting against government cuts in London today, in the biggest demonstration since the anti-Iraq war march.

Thousands join cuts protest march

A quarter of a million people - including thousands from the West Midlands - were protesting against government cuts in London today, in the biggest demonstration since the anti-Iraq war march.

Eight hundred coaches and scores of chartered trains set off for the biggest union-organised protest for more than 20 years.

Campaigners from the Black Country, Birmingham and Staffordshire were among those taking part in March for the Alternative in Hyde Park.

Fifty-seven coaches organised by public sector union Unison left from the West Midlands alone from sites including Dudley's Russells Hall Hospital and Wolverhampton's Faulkland Street car park. Coaches also left from Dale End in Birmingham, Sandwell Council House in Oldbury and sites in Walsall, West Bromwich, Stafford, Cannock and across Staffordshire.

More than 4,500 police officers were drafted in for the protest, organised by the Trade Union Congress.

The Met Police said it was aware of a "small but significant minority" planning to stage violent attacks and target banks and stores in Oxford Street.

But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber insisted it would be a peaceful event.

"It looks set to be huge, giving those who want to oppose cuts the opportunity to speak out," he said.

Len McCluskey, of the Unite union, said those taking part were the "tip of the iceberg" and claimed millions were opposed to the cuts.

Wolverhampton council worker Janet Russon, aged 54, from Finchfield, left on a coach from the city today.

"I hope today will send a message to the coalition that the cuts are too fierce and too soon," she said.

By Elizabeth Joyce

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