Tens of thousands expected at major anti-austerity protests

The Government will today face its first big public protests since being elected when politicians, union leaders and celebrities join thousands of people on demonstrations against austerity, spending cuts and nuclear weapons.

Organisers predict that the protests in London and Glasgow will be the biggest for years, especially in the capital, with people travelling from across the UK to march from the City of London to Westminster, where a rally will be held.

Singer Charlotte Church and activist Russell Brand will address the crowds as well as Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, firefighters’ leader Matt Wrack, Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.

Sam Fairbairn of the People’s Assembly, which is organising the protests, said: “It will be the start of a campaign of protest, strikes, direct action and civil disobedience up and down the country.

“We will not rest until austerity is history, our services are back in public hands and the needs of the majority are put first.”

Anti-nuclear activists will be among those taking part.

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said mass mobilisation was key to persuading the new Government not to renew the Trident nuclear weapons.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, said: “I will be marching because I am fed up with all the main parties saying they are going to promote austerity. They have made the rich richer and the poor poorer and they’re going to continue.”

Union leaders and campaign groups will highlight the impact of spending cuts on public services, the NHS, welfare and education, and warn of the effects of fresh cuts expected to be announced in next month’s Budget.

Green MP Caroline Lucas is expected to say: “This Government is continuing to punish the poor for an economic crisis they didn’t cause.

“It’s time for all of us who oppose the Government’s self-defeating austerity programme to work together. That means more protests. It means taking action in our communities. And for those of us in Parliament it means voting against further vicious cuts to our precious welfare state.

“Never in my lifetime has the country so desperately needed a real alternative. So my challenge here today – to all MPs who call themselves progressive, and especially to those in the Labour Party – is this: vote against further austerity, protect our public services, and defy your leadership by voting down the savage welfare cap.

“In doing so we can bring the voice of the thousands of people here today into the chamber of the House of Commons.”

Marina Prentoulis, representing Greek party Syriza on the protest, said: “We have paid the price of the austerity policies in blood. The Greek government has the political and moral duty to put an end to the austerity measures that created a humanitarian crisis in Greece.

“The Greek government has the political and moral duty not to allow the further humiliation of the Greek people and to stand up and stand firm against any blackmail undermining democracy in Greece or anywhere else in Europe.”

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