Thousands marched in central London Saturday to protest against British government austerity programs and spending cuts in a massive show of force meant to win attention to the plight of the poor.

The march began with a festive mood. Red flares exploded as the rally got underway at the Bank of England, sending plumes of scarlet smoke through the financial district’s narrow and winding streets. Brass musicians offered a tune as demonstrators waved placards, balloons and banners on the way to Parliament Square

The event is intended to vent outrage, albeit peacefully, over the Conservative government’s plan to slash millions of pounds in public spending to address the deficit, which ballooned after the nation rescued its troubled banks during the 2008 financial crisis.

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