London’s Metropolitan Police said on Saturday a group of black-clad demonstrators also threw paint bombs at shops and banks on the main shopping streets of Oxford Street and New Bond Street.
A luxury hotel and branches of multinational businesses came under attack as thousands of people on Saturday took out a march through Central London to protest against the Tory-led coalition government's spending cuts which threaten millions of public sector jobs.
Organisers claimed more than 200,000 people from across Britain took part in the march making it the biggest public protest since the million-strong rally against the Iraq invasion in February 2003. There were sporadic incidents of violence with missiles being thrown at the famous Ritz Hotel and attempts made to break into branches of leading retail fashion stores in Oxford Street. The branch of a well-known multinational bank was also targeted.
Scuffles broke out in some places and police claimed light bulbs containing ammonia were thrown at officers. Violence was blamed on small groups who broke away from the main rally.
At the time of writing, however, the protest was largely peaceful and good-humoured though there were fears that a show of force by police who were present in large numbers could provoke younger protesters.
The Trade Union Congress, which organised the march, warned of more protests if the government persisted with the cuts. “We are here to send a message to the government that we are strong and united. We will fight the savage cuts and we will not let them destroy peoples' services, jobs and lives,” said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.
Labour leader David Miliband who joined the march said: “The Tories said I should not come and speak today. But I am proud to stand with you. There is an alternative [to the cuts].”