By Ian Dunt
Thousands of people hit the streets of central London on Saturday to demand jobs and public services for all, in the first sign of a concerted protest movement prompted by the global economic downturn.
The march was organised by Put People First, an unprecedented alliance of more than 150 unions, development, faith and environment groups. It was expected to be the biggest demonstration in Britain since the massive anti-war march just before the invasion of Iraq.
It came just days before disparate groups of anarchists, socialists, anti-globalisation protesters and environmentalists attempt to bring London to a standstill ahead of the G20 summit on Thursday.
'All of our customers are international and we need those transport links to be as efficient and effective as possible'
But the marchers were keen to disassociate themselves from the more violent demonstrations expected next week.
The protesters also demanded that world leaders take action to make sure the financial sector is never allowed to provoke such instability again, and for a low-carbon response to the crisis which focuses on poverty reduction.
The range of demands - all united under the banner of a progressive response to the downturn - reflects the variety of groups under the Put People First banner, from the TUC to the Salvation Army, Friends of the Earth to Oxfam and Shelter to War on Want.
Organisers had said union delegations and poverty campaigners would be coming from around the world to the march, including Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Korea, USA, Australia, South Africa, Zambia, Canada and the Philippines.
"Never before has such a wide coalition come together with such a clear message for world leaders," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.
"The old ideas of unregulated free markets do not work, and have brought the world's economy to near collapse, failed to fight poverty and have done far too little to move to a low-carbon economy."
Church leaders took a pivotal role in the march. The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, joined an ecumenical service at Central Hall in Westminster at 11:00 GMT, attended by more than 2,000 people before feeding into the march at Westminster.
They marched alongside a disparate group of figures, including Kooks lead singer Luke Pritchard and left-wing comedian Mark Thomas.
List of organisations joining the march
The 150 organisations backing Put People First includes:
Acord, ActionAid, Action for Global Climate Community, Action on Disability and Development, ACTSA, Advocacy International, Akina Mama Wa Africa, AMREF UK, Article 12 in Scotland, ASLEF, ATL, Avaaz, BECTU, BOND, Bosco Volunteer Action, Bretton Woods Project, CAFOD, Campaign Against Climate Change, Centre for Democracy and Development, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Change is Coming, ChildHope, Christian Aid, Christian Ecology Link, CND, Compass, Concern Worldwide (UK), Co-operative News, Connect, CWU, Dalit Solidarity Network UK, Defend Council Housing, Do Something About It, Down2Earth Down2Us, ECCR, Ekklesia, Engineers Against Poverty, Equity, European Movement, Everychild, Fairtrade Foundation, Fatima Women's Network, Find Your Feet, Fire Brigades Union, Footprint Friends, Friends of the Earth, GardenAfrica, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, GMB, Green New Deal Group, Greenpeace, HelpAge International, Hives Save Lives, InterHealth, International Service, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Justice for Colombia, Labour Start, Lattitude, Learning for Life, Merlin, Micah Challenge UK, MRDF, Musicians Union, Muslim Council of Britain, NAPO, NASUWT, National Pensioners Convention, National Union of Journalists, National Union of Teachers, NCVO, new economics foundation, New Internationalist, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, Novas Scarman, NUS, One World Action, Oxfam, Pants to Poverty, PCS, People and Planet, Performers Without Borders, Philosophy Football, Plan UK, Progressio, Project Hope UK, Prospect, Red Pepper, RMT, Salvation Army, Save the Children, Share the World's Resources, Shelter, Sightsavers, Skillshare International, SPEAK, Stamp Out Poverty, STOP AIDS Campaign, Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Sudanese Women for Peace, Synergy Centre, Tax Justice Network, Teach a Man to Fish, Tearfund, The Other Tax Payers' Alliance, Thirty-eight degrees, Tools for Self Reliance, Tourism Concern, Trade Justice Movement, Trades Union Congress, Trading Visions, Traidcraft, Transnational Institute, Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, UCATT, UCU, UK Aid Network, UNISON, UNITE, United Nations Association, Usdaw, VSO, War on Want, Welsh Centre for International Affairs, Womankind Worldwide, Women Opposing War, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, World Development Movement, World Vision, WWF.