Anti-cuts protesters say there is still time to force a rethink

READY The Portsmouth group gathers on the South Bank before the march
READY The Portsmouth group gathers on the South Bank before the march

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MORE than 1,000 people from Portsmouth and south Hampshire area took part in one of the biggest demonstrations in recent UK history.

Union members, students, pensioners, public sector workers, parents and children joined a crowd estimated to be more than half a million strong to march through London in opposition to coalition cuts on Saturday.

Fifteen coaches were laid on by public sector unions, Unison, GMB and Unite, but Unison member Jon Woods explained: ‘We had non-members, and members of the National Union of Students on the coaches. And we know lots of other people organised their own transport, because this is a vitally important issue.

‘These cuts strike at the vulnerable and at the hearts of communities. We don’t think this march alone will be enough to change the government’s mind, but it’ll help people gain courage.

‘It’s not about causing trouble, it’s about trying to stop communities being destroyed.

‘It’s not too late to change things and the more people who get involved the better the chance.’

Hampshire’s marchers arrived around 10am, joining thousands who had been gathering at Embankment, on the north bank of the River Thames from the early morning.

Jan Matthews, a Hampshire County Council community carer, took part with Teresa Greenwood, who until recently worked for Fareham Borough Council, and her husband John, who is still employed by the council.

Mrs Matthews said: ‘Communities in Hampshire are falling apart, because people can’t provide services any more. There’s no money and we have to stand up and say it’s not acceptable.’

The three-mile march took protesters past the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street, alongside Trafalgar Square and up to Hyde Park, where speakers including the leader of the opposition Ed Miliband addressed a rally.

Pompey Pensioners joined other pensioner groups at the rally.

Secretary June Clarkson said: ‘It’s vital because we represent pensioners and these cuts will hit them. We will lose social care services and day care centres, the government’s cutting winter fuel allowance and our pensions will be worth less and less each year.’

Matt Blackall, vice president of the University of Portsmouth’s student union, said: ‘This all started with the fight against tuition fees and I’m here today to show opposition to cuts. They’re just being directed to the wrong places.

‘The government’s taking the heart out of Britain. I hope people see what’s happening today and take an interest and get involved. The cuts hit everyone, and everyone can have an effect in helping stop them.’

But while most demonstrators enjoyed the peaceful protest at Hyde Park, police elsewhere attempted to stop incidents of violence and trespass.