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Hundreds of 'yellow vest' protesters rally in central London

AFP  |  London 

Hundreds of demonstrators wearing yellow vests took to the streets of on Saturday, in the largest protest yet in copying the "yellow vest" protests rocking

Protesters opposed to the government's austerity programme and demanding a marched through the centre of the capital before rallying in

They included two French activists involved in the demonstrations sweeping since mid-November who were invited by the organisers of the British event. "We are here in support," said Erick Simon, 61, one of the duo.

"I think that the yellow vest movement in is the same as the one that is growing in England... people are fed up with poverty, injustice and social and financial injustice." The French protests began in mid-November over a proposed increase in fuel duties, and soon turned violent.

The leaderless movement appeared to be petering out at the end of 2018 but has since regained momentum, with weekly clashes seen in and other French cities.

has seen several small protests by Brexit supporters wearing yellow vests since November, but other activists have been slow to adopt the symbolic attire and movement.

Saturday's event, organised by the left-wing "People's Assembly" group, saw mainstream opposition lawmakers join forces with several unions and other organisations focused on causes ranging from refugees to racism.

Addressing the crowd in Trafalgar Square, Labour's minister said eight years of austerity under the ruling Conservatives was "tearing apart the very social fabric" of

"We need a now to bring about the fairer, more equal society we all want to live in," he said. Retired Stephen Hamer, 59, clad in a yellow vest, said the protest would likely have occurred without the movement in France, but it had "helped things along".

"I think we need a change in government very urgently," he added. "The UK is falling apart -- nothing works anymore." Delia Hazrati, a in her 50s who had travelled from Kent in in a yellow vest, told AFP the left in Britain needed to "reclaim" the movement there.

"It's a movement against austerity laws -- that's what it's about," she added, noting right-wingers had been "opportunistic" in adopting it.

A separate demonstration by dozens of Brexit supporters wearing yellow vests also took place in central on Saturday. At the outset, police arrested one of the organisers on suspicion of a public order offence.

It reportedly related to a controversial incident outside parliament on Monday, when a group harangued pro-EU figures, including chanting "Nazi" at prominent Remain supporting during live TV interviews.

Ahead of Saturday's protests Nick Lowles, CEO of the group "Hope Not Hate" accused Britain's far-right of "attempting to copy the French 'yellow vests' protests in order to stir up trouble and harass, threaten and attack their political opponents.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, January 12 2019. 22:40 IST