Britons protest in London over govt cuts

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LONDON – Tens of thousands of Britons opposed to government austerity cuts were expected to join the biggest rally in the capital since protests against war in Iraq in 2003. Union leaders say more than 200,000 people angry at deep public spending cuts, rising unemployment, tax rises and pension reforms could join the demonstration on Saturday. Police fear simmering resentment could lead to a repeat of violence seen last December when student protests against higher university tuition fees erupted into the capital’s worst rioting in decades.
Some 4,500 police officers will be on duty along with hundreds of union-trained stewards. The Conservative-led coalition is pushing ahead with a tough debt reduction programme to virtually eliminate a budget deficit, currently running at about 10 percent of GDP, by 2015 to protect Britain’s triple-A credit rating. [ID:nLDE72N1PN] Unions and the opposition Labour Party say the measures go too far, too fast and are bringing misery to millions of Britons with unemployment at its highest level since 1994.
“People know we’ve got to get the deficit down… but to do things this far and this fast, to destabilise communities, pushing unemployment up, people are worried about that,” Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls, surrounded by protesters holding banners, told BBC television. Brendan Barber, general secretary of the umbrella labour organisation, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said earlier he expected the march to be London’s largest since up to 1 million protested against the planned invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“I think it’s going to be a very, very big event and a kind of powerful message to the government they are losing public support,” he told Reuters earlier this week.