Thousands of people are marching in London in protest at the coalition government’s spending cuts.
The Trades Union Congress says more than 200,000 people have joined the march, more than it had expected, but police are not estimating numbers. BBC correspondents say the atmosphere is largely “good natured and friendly”, with isolated scuffles in the West End. There has been one arrest.
Ministers say the cuts are necessary to get the public finances in order. Marchers set off from Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park, where TUC general secretary Brendan Barber addressed the crowds. “We are here to send a message to the government that we are strong and united,” he said. “We will fight the savage cuts and we will not let them destroy peoples’ services, jobs and lives.”
He was followed by Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said: “The Tories said I should not come and speak today. But I am proud to stand with you. There is an alternative.”
BBC political reporter Brian Wheeler, in central London, said there were lots of families and older people, and the atmosphere was good-natured but the anger was real.
“The noise in Whitehall was deafening as thousands of protesters banged drums, blew whistles and shouted anti-cut slogans, slowly making their way towards Trafalgar Square.
“The crowds were booing as they went past Number 10, but the demonstration was good-natured and friendly.
“There are hundreds of trade union banners, but we have also spoken to public sector workers who have come to make their voices heard.”
One of those protesting was Peter Keats, 54, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, who works for Jobcentre Plus.
He said: “Personally, I think it’s wrong the way we are hitting the poor.
“I’m not so much worried about myself but the customers I deal with are vulnerable and I’m worried about them and I’m worried about the kids of this country.”
Demonstrator Christine Nugent, a university research fellow, said: “The size and scale of it, and the range of people here, is great.”
The veteran of anti-Margaret Thatcher demonstrations in the 1980s said protesters came from all walks of life, adding: “There are a lot of trade unionists here, but it’s not just the usual suspects.”
Soon after 1330 GMT, a small group splintered off from the main protest and broke through a thin police line to head up Regent’s Street to Oxford Circus where scuffles broke out and Top Shop was attacked, reported BBC correspondent Tom Symonds.
Many were wearing black, with their faces covered by masks and they were carrying flags. Some let off flares and fireworks were heard.
The police said light bulbs containing ammonia were thrown at officers.
Earlier, the largest union involved, Unite, said so many of its members had wanted to take part that it could not find enough coaches or trains to ferry them to London.