By Duncan Mackay

Trafalgar_Square_riotsMarch 26 - Several hundred police were forced to guard the Omega Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square tonight as it became the centre of the huge anti-cuts protest march that took place in London today.

The problem in Trafalgar Square had started when an estimated 300 protesters targeted the Olympic Clock, which was unveiled earlier this month to mark the 500-day countdown to the start of the Games.

"They tried to damage the Olympic clock, we moved in and they tried to attack us," said Commander Bob Broadhurst, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police.

But a demonstrator speaking on BBC News claimed that the police had over-reacted when three protestors tried to put an anti-Government sticker on the clock and were charged by 20 officers.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police, however, said: "A large number from the crowd are throwing missiles and have attempted to damage the Olympic clock within the square.

"Officers have come under sustained attack as they deal with the disorder and attempted criminal damage."

The area was eventually cleared by around 2.45am.

London Mayor Boris Johnson condemned the action that came at the end of a day when more than 250,000 people from across the country had marched peacefully through London to protest the cuts proposed by the Government.

Earlier, some small breakaway groups had smashed windows at banks and shops and spray painting logos on the walls.

"Bitterly disappointed that some people don't seem to appreciate the precious right to protest & have decided to abuse it so recklessly," Johnson tweeted.

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