Thousands of police march in pay protest

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The Independent Online

Thousands of angry police officers staged a massive protest march today.

Nearly 18,000 police officers from across the UK set off from London's Park Lane where they were jeered by a small group of anarchist counter-protesters.

The unprecedented day of action organised by the Police Federation saw off-duty officers walking through Westminster and Whitehall to protest over Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision to delay a 2.5 per cent pay rise.

One protester, Pc Michael Ramsden of Thames Valley Police, said: "I feel we have been lied to. We have no confidence in her at all."

Mick Powell, a West Midlands Federation Official, said 43 coachloads of officers had travelled to the capital from his force alone.

He said: "Our message to the Home Secretary is that when you go through a binding agreement, you should stick to it."

The Police Federation urged participants not to react to taunts from anarchist groups.

Former Labour MP Tony Benn joined the marchers, who queued part-way up Park Lane and back down to Hyde Park Corner as the march set off - a distance of about half a mile.

Mr Benn said: "Seeing the police without their uniforms, you realise they are just part of the community like everyone else.

"They are going to win this. It's clear that this is driven by Gordon Brown telling Jacqui Smith what to do."

He insisted there was no contradiction in the police staging a protest march, when they have been criticised in the past for the way they have policed other demonstrations, particularly the miners' strike in the 1980s.

"During the miner's strike I used to welcome the police, saying that when you are on a demo we will be there with you," Mr Benn said.

But Ian Bone, from London, one of the group of about 20 counter-protesters from anarchist group Class War, said: "We remember what they did for other workers in the 1980s - the printers, the dockers, the miners.

"If the media had not been here, we would have been clobbered by the police a long time ago."

The counter-protest at the southern end of Park Lane was circled by about 50 on-duty police officers.