London pays the price

By Alex Stevenson and Ian Dunt

A small group of Black Bloc anarchists have stolen the headlines with violent action across central London, after an estimated 250,000 marched peacefully across the capital.

The ‘March for the Alternative’ against the coalition’s spending cuts agenda lived up to its huge hype among left-wingers, who had hoped to rally all those opposed to the austerity agenda to send a message to ministers.

But attention was focused on the ongoing violence in central London, which saw shops damaged on Oxford Street and Soho before the heart of what the Metropolitan police called “criminality” shifted to Piccadilly.

Anarchists prowl London’s streets amid anti-cuts march

A couple of hundred Black Bloc anarchists were thought to be responsible for much of the damage, although UK Uncut were behind an occupation of the luxury retailer Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly.

Anti-cuts anarchists smash up London: In pictures

Police had brought in Liberty, the civil liberty group, to watch over its operations on the streets and in the control room, in a bid to counter criticism of heavy-handed policing.

There were 28 casualties from the public during the course of the day, the Met said, including seven admitted to hospital.

Eyewitness: On the frontline with anarchist demonstrators

“These were for a number of reasons – those to hospital included someone suffering a shortness of breath and someone with a suspected fracture to the hip,” the Met said in a statement.

General secretary Brendan Barber of the TUC, which had organised the main march, claimed that up to 500,000 people could have been present.

‘Hundreds of thousands’ march for the alternative

Demonstrators marched from Victoria Embankment to parliament, before advancing down Whitehall and past Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly and, eventually, Hyde Park.

Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed those in the park this lunchtime, as he sought to claim the marchers reflected the majority of people in Britain.

Miliband addresses ‘mainstream’ anti-cuts rally

That claim was reinforced by polling from YouGov released this morning, which showed 52% of respondents claiming they backed the aim of the march against public sector spending cuts.

Yesterday Mr Miliband wrote in the Mirror newspaper that the march represented the ‘silent majority’.

“I think the government will be making a great mistake if they somehow dismiss all of the people on that march as troublemakers, or just ‘the same old people’. They are not,” he wrote.