Some 35,000 people from all walks of life have descended on the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester to oppose 'vicious' cuts in public spending, which they say will hit the poorest hardest and do nothing to tackle Britain's economic problems, including the deficit.
"Cuts are not the answer" was the main message of the protest, which highlighted different approaches - including the major investment in environmental technology and a green future heralded by former US vice-president Al Gore in Scotland recently.
The TUC-led march was billed as the rally for 'The Alternative - jobs, growth and justice'. It included large numbers of public sector workers, who will be hit by the coalition government's austerity measures and pensions clawback.
Around 20 to 30 protesters attempted to get through the doors of Bridgewater Hall, where many Conservative conference fringe events have been taking place. But they were stopped by the police in the midst of a ring of tight security.
Some 300 members of Occupy Manchester also attempted to bed down in Albert Square, directly across from the conference, following similar occupations on Wall Street in the USA and Tahrir Square in Egypt.
Unite union General Secretary Len McCluskey said that the march was a response to the government's "economic kamikaze mission" and to cuts imposed by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats which were "totally political" in their assault on the public sector, local government and the redistribution of wealth.
He added: "The evidence that the government's strategy is a calamitous failure mounts up daily but still they cut and they will not stop until they have dismantled what generations of this country have held dear. This protest is only the beginning. We will keep doing so until they stop this economic kamikaze mission."
The march prefigures plans for an all-out public-sector strike across Britain on 30 November 2011, where trades unionists will be joined by anti-cuts activists who have pioneered nonviolent direct action in opposing government policies which have also been dubbed "undemocratic", because only a minority voted for them in the May 2010 General Election.
Tony Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central, who was among those at the front of the march, declared: "People here are angry, but many are also frightened. This government is slashing billions and billions from our public services. Even top Tories are calling on George Osborne to go for a proper Plan B and go for growth."
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "We all know the cuts are hurting, but they're not working and you can't cut your way out of a recession. If you clawed all the tax back that has been evaded and avoided and you put in a Robin Hood tax, we'd raise a very, very, large amount of money."
Her comments came as the Robin Hood Tax campaign, and the churches and faith groups affiliated to it, called on Chancellor Osborne to back rather than oppose a European-wide financial transaction levy.