LONDON (AP) -- Tens of thousands of protesters crowded central London on Saturday to protest government cuts to public services, streaming in from around the country with banners, balloons and whistles.

Organizers of the march estimated that at least 100,000 people were joining in the demonstration, what the Trade Union Council called the largest civil society demonstration in years. Police said they are not giving out estimates of the number of demonstrators, but as of early afternoon they said the march had been peaceful so far.

Britain is facing 80 billion pounds ($130 billion) of public spending cuts from Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government as it struggles to get the country's large budget deficit under control. The government has already raised sales tax, but Britons are bracing for deep cuts on services.

The TUC union says it believes the cuts will threaten the country's economic recovery, and has urged the government to create new taxes for banks and to close loopholes that allow some companies to pay less tax.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, is due to address the rally later in the afternoon.

The Metropolitan police have been criticized for adopting heavy handed tactics when dealing with demonstrations in the area. In particular, they have been criticized for penning demonstrators up in a small area for several hours without allowing them to leave. Police have said the so-called "kettling" procedure will only be used as a last resort.


Advertisement

The TUC has called for a peaceful protest during which people walk along official routes that have already been cleared with police. But leaflets scattered around central London by other groups have asked demonstrators to leave the official route and stay in central London after the event officially ends in the afternoon.