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UK protest violence condemned
Police launch investigation after battling rioters during largely peaceful anti-austerity rally.
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2011 15:40
Banks were attacked with paint bombs and cash machines were smashed during the protests [Reuters]

Organisers of a protest in London against the British government's spending cuts have condemned rioters who used the demonstration to attack police and vandalise shops.

Police on Sunday launched a probe into the violence and a team of investigators was said to be reviewing evidence collected from police officers and CCTV cameras.

More than 250,000 people turned out for the anti-austerity march on Saturday in the biggest public demonstration since an anti-war protest prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

During the protests a group of several hundred masked rioters attacked London's Ritz Hotel, occupied a luxury food store, smashed up shops and banks and started a bonfire in Trafalgar Square.

Some threw paint bombs at shops and banks, breaking windows and smashing cash machines.

At least 201 people were arrested and 84 people were hurt in the violence.

Many Britons blame banks for a financial crisis that helped prompt the deepest government spending cuts in a generation.

The rally itself was hailed as a success by organisers from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which represents many British unions and more than six million workers.

"I don't think the activities of a few hundred people should take the focus away from the hundreds of thousands of people who have sent a powerful message to the government," Brendan Barber, the TUC head, said.

'No change'

The UK coalition government, made up of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, plans cuts worth £81bn ($131bn) over five years in order to slash the country's public debt.

It blames the size of the deficit on the previous Labour government, which lost power in last year's election.

On Sunday the government said it would not change its economic policy "in response to a demonstration".

Vince Cable, the UK's business secretary, said on BBC television that the government was listening to people's concerns.

"But we are not going to change the basic economic strategy," he said. "No government - coalition, Labour or any other - would change its fundamental economic policy simply in response to a demonstration of that kind."

Britain's unions argue that the government's austerity measures go too far, too fast and are economically unsound, putting future growth at risk.

They also argue that the cuts are causing misery to millions of ordinary people, with unemployment at its highest level since 1994.

Source:
Agencies
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