There was widespread disorder at the Million Mask March in central London as protesters threw missiles, set off fireworks outside of Parliament and attempted to set fire to a police car.
Police said protesters abandoned an agreed route and timetable for the demonstration and thousands of riot police and mounted officers were deployed to contain crowds after the largely peaceful protest at Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square dispersed across the centre of the capital.
To chants of "Tory scum" and "red solution, revolution", thousands of anti-capitalist protesters flowed past the capital’s landmarks in a cat and mouse game with the police as confused tourists look on, amid reports that at least one protester was hit by a car.
The protest, which is part of a worldwide day of action organised by the Anonymous hackers' collective, saw protesters don Guy Fawkes masks in an effort to recreate the final scene of cult film V For Vendetta.
Several protesters were treated for minor injuries and a small crowd was briefly “kettled” by police at Great George Street, a short distance from Conservative Party headquarters, before large numbers of police rushed the surrounding crowd and most protesters dispersed towards the Palace of Westminster were flares and fireworks were set off and a small drone was flown into Portcullis House, where many MPs have their offices.
Some protesters complained that the demonstration, which had no official leaders and was arranged on Facebook, was poorly organised, as tourists and Westminster workers were left puzzled by the mixture of banners on the protest, ranging from allegations of a political cover-up of child abuse to freedom to Palestine and a more general anti-austerity message. Other protesters were calling on others to stop antagonising police and wearing masks as police vans broadcast message urging them to obey the law.
Kieran Wyatt, 20, a pest control worker who travelled from north Wales, and was like many wearing a mask inspired by V For Vendetta, said: “We are all here for different causes, but I’m here because of homelessness. David Cameron wants to help 20,000 refugees but I think we need to look after our own first.”
Others tried to distance themselves from the violent minority. “We are here to show we are not afraid of being involved in democracy anymore,” said Dylan Connelly, a shop worker from Stoke on Trent. “There will be violence tonight, but that’s not me. I’m here to peacefully show I’m against austerity.”
As the main protest broke up splinter groups headed for Horse Guards, Buckingham Palace, Regent’s Street and Leicester Square, where they ended up outside the UK premiere of the latest installment of The Hunger Games. “This is so badly organised,” said one balaclava wearing anarchist, who did not give his name. “There’s not enough of us.”
Police at the scene said numbers appeared to be down on last year, when comedian Russell Brand spoke amid violent confrontations with police, and 44 arrests had been made.
After the violence of previous years, the Met imposed stringent restrictions on the duration and route of the demonstration, including a ban on any protest after 9pm.
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