British police officers scuffle with people gathered in central London's Trafalgar square, Saturday, April 13, 2013, with a party to mark the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher, the combative "Iron Lady" who transformed her country by a ruthless dedication to free market economy during her 11-years as prime minister, died Monday, April 8, 2013. She was 87. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
LONDON (AP) — Hundreds of opponents of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher partied in London's Trafalgar Square to celebrate her death, sipping Champagne and chanting "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead."
Thatcher's most strident critics had long vowed to hold a gathering in central London on the Saturday following her passing, and the festivities were an indication of the depth of the hatred which some Britons still feel for their former leader.
"We've been waiting a long time for this," Richard Watson, a 45-year-old from eastern England wearing a party hat, said. "It's an opportunity of a lifetime."
As a handbag-toting Thatcher effigy made its way down the stairs in front of the National Gallery, the crowd erupted into cries of "Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Dead! Dead! Dead!" and sang lyrics from the "Wizard of Oz" ditty "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead."
Hundreds of people clutched their umbrellas in the rain between Nelson's Column and the National Gallery on the square. The mood appeared festive and the celebration was peaceful, although there was a minor scuffle with police at one point. Official crowd estimates weren't immediately available.
Britons remain deeply divided over Thatcher, who died Monday aged 87, and the debate over her legacy has revived the strong feelings that marked her more than decade-long term in office. Thatcher's funeral is Wednesday and police are bracing for possible trouble along the procession route in central London.
Widely respected on the right for reviving Britain's economic fortunes and besting Argentina in a war over the Falklands, Thatcher is reviled by some on the left for her bruising confrontation with the country's union movement and her perceived indifference to the country's working class.