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London Rising: Union Members Protesting Cuts Violently Clash With Police


Police say protesters have thrown paint bombs and light bulbs filled with ammonia...

LONDON (AP/THE BLAZE) -- Tens of thousands of mostly peaceful demonstrators streamed into central London on Saturday to march against government budget cuts, with a small breakaway group smashing its way into a bank, breaking windows and spray painting logos on the walls.

Another group of black-clad protesters hurled paint bombs and ammonia-filled light bulbs at police.

Britain is facing 80 billion pounds ($130 billion) of public spending cuts from Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government as it struggles to get the country's large budget deficit under control. The government has already raised sales tax, but Britons are bracing for deep cuts on services.

Live coverage from earlier today captures a union brawl on the streets of London, where protesters clashed with the police forces:

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Organizers of the march estimated that at least 250,000 people from across the country were peacefully joining in the demonstration, the biggest protest in London since a series of rallies against the Iraq war in 2003. Police said they were not giving out crowd estimates.

They said one group of a few hundred people broke away from the main march, scuffling with police officers and attempting to smash shop windows on two of London's main shopping streets. Others threw objects at the posh Ritz Hotel in nearby Piccadilly. At least one person was arrested for carrying equipment that could cause criminal damage, police said.

Another group pulled a giant model of a Trojan horse and said they planned to burn it.

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But, the protests otherwise had a carnival feel. School teachers, nurses and students all marched through central London toward Hyde Park, one of London's biggest public gardens, with banners, balloons and whistles.

The TUC union says it believes the cuts will threaten the country's economic recovery, and has urged the government to create new taxes for banks and to close loopholes that allow some companies to pay less tax.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, likened the march to the suffragette movement in Britain and the civil rights movement in America. "Our causes may be different but we come together to realize our voice. We stand on the shoulders of those who have marched and have struggled in the past," he told protesters at the rally.

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The Metropolitan police have been criticized for adopting heavy handed tactics when dealing with demonstrations in the area. In particular, they have been criticized for penning demonstrators up in a small area for several hours without allowing them to leave. Police have said the so-called "kettling" procedure will only be used as a last resort.

The TUC has called for a peaceful protest during which people walk along official routes that have already been cleared with police. But leaflets scattered around central London by other groups have asked demonstrators to leave the official route and stay in central London after the event officially ends in the afternoon.

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