As sirens screamed in the opposite direction, almost half a million angry workers, pensioners and families marched on Hyde Park in London on Saturday.
The 400,000 strong march through the capital, organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), skirted the violent clashes in West London and was the first major ‘show of strength’ from the country’s unions since public sector cut-backs were announced.
Outspoken opponents of the government’s planned education reforms, teaching union NASUWT, mobilised thousands of their members from across the country for the march.
Karen Hopwood, NASUWT national executive member for Greater Manchester, said: “Some of the cuts to public services are affected by the Gove academy programme. That programme is absolutely diverting money away from the public sector services like libraries in order to build building blocks for a privatised education system. It’s a total privatisation of education”
As well as a strong union presence, thousands of families and individuals joined the march to Hyde Park. Marching with her daughter, Annie from South London, said: “My daughter’s been trying to get into university at the moment and obviously this year it’s become very very competitive and she’s having tremendous difficulty.
“I’ve got a son a couple of years younger who will have lost his EMA. As well he’s going to face the increased tuition fees. We’ll be losing children’s tax credit and child benefit. It’s little bits eating away all over the place.”
Many of those marching shared similar gripes to the protesting students who brought London to a standstill last November but in stark contrast to those marches, the mood on Saturday was quiet and determined rather than raucous.
But the scale of the march, which stretched for miles throughout Central London, reassured many worried about the sheer scale of the proposed cuts.
As one marcher put it: “Things are getting so bad I can’t see people just quieting down and getting on with it for much longer. I think, I hope, that people keep making themselves heard because I think the alternative is just to get really despondent about it and that’s bad for everybody.”
Public sector unions believe that the scale of Saturday’s march showed the kind of support which could spell major industrial unrest in the near future.