THOUSANDS of anti-cuts protesters from Sheffield joined up to half a million people in London for the March for the Alternative demonstration - but steered clear of trouble which flared during the event.
Trade unions and other protest groups set out early on Saturday from around South Yorkshire.
In Sheffield alone, there were 30 coaches and two chartered trains taking demonstrators to the capital.
Between 250,000 and 500,000 people from all parts of Britain marched through central London, from the Embankment to Hyde Park, where a rally took place addressed by Doncaster North MP and Labour leader Ed Miliband.
He said: “Every one of us knows that today the country faces difficult times. But we know too there is a different way. We hold to some simple truths: We need jobs to cut the deficit.
“Unemployment is never a price worth paying. The next generation should never have their hopes sacrificed on the altar of dogmatic deficit reduction.
“There is a need for difficult choices, and some cuts. But this government is going too far and too fast and destroying the fabric of our communities.”
But the march was marred when anarchist protesters vandalised shops and banks, and occupied Fortnum and Mason, the Queen’s grocer, in Piccadilly.
Rod Padley, branch secretary for trade union Unison at Sheffield Council, said: “The march itself was a fantastic occasion. I couldn’t believe how many people turned out. There were up to 8,000 demonstrators from Sheffield alone, which was exceptional.
“We had placards, flags and banners with us - and there were people of all ages, from teenagers to families and pensioners.
“A lot of the news reports have concentrated on the trouble but this has got to be one of the biggest demonstrations in years and made a powerful message.”
James Mills, director of the national campaign to save Education Maintenance Allowance, said: “There were students from Sheffield’s universities and Sheffield College who were on the march.
“It’s positive to see so many young people taking an active role in democracy.
“Those involved in violence were a very small minority. It’s deplorable and undermines the message we wanted to put across.”
Michael Leahy, General Secretary of steelworkers’ union, Community, and Trades Union Congress President, spoke at the rally in Hyde Park. He called the event “a great day of unity and solidarity”.
He said: “Many of Community Union’s members in the steel industry still bear the scars from their struggle in the eighties, but they are marching today in solidarity with public sector colleagues, who will be at the frontline of the struggle today.
“We cannot allow history to repeat itself.”