Saturday 21 September 2019

'We will not be silenced' - thousands of people protest against Boris Johnson's plans to suspend Parliament

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

THOUSANDS of people have flooded the streets of Britain today to rally against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's controversial plan to suspend Parliament.

More than 1,000 people gathered in the centre of York to listen to speakers outside the famous Bettys tea rooms and The Ivy restaurant.

Many of those in St Helen's Square were carrying banners as well as EU and Yorkshire flags and hats.

First speaker Rachael Maskell - the Labour MP for York Central - was heckled by a lone Leave supporter from the centre of the crowd, who then argued with protesters around him.

Handout photo taken with permission from the twitter feed of @JaneJohnsonBakr showing a protest in Penzance, Cornwall against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks before a Queen's Speech on October 14. Jane Johnson/PA Wire
Handout photo taken with permission from the twitter feed of @JaneJohnsonBakr showing a protest in Penzance, Cornwall against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks before a Queen's Speech on October 14. Jane Johnson/PA Wire
A young British anti-Brexit protestor advises his fellow supporters to disobey police attempts to remove them from the Parliament's Square. Protestors are continuing to participate during the late evening in front of the Houses of Parliament in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)
Handout photo taken with permission from the twitter feed of @judith_everard showing a protest in Shrewsbury against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks before a Queen's Speech on October 14. Judith Everard/PA Wire
A demonstrator dressed in black stands outside the Carriage Gates of Parliament in Westminster, London, in protest of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend parliament.Rick Findler/PA Wire
Anti-Brexit supporters continue to participate in a late evening protest in front of the Houses of Parliament in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)
Anti-Brexit supporters continue to participate in a late evening protest in front of the Houses of Parliament in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)
London Metropolitan Police is aiming to shut down an on-going protest through negotiations with dozens of Anti-Brexit supporters who continue to participate in a late evening protest blocking the Houses of Parliament square in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)
A protestor chanting anti-Brexit slogans as London Metropolitan Police is aiming to shut down an ongoing protest through negotiations with dozens of Anti-Brexit supporters who continue to participate in a late evening protest blocking the Houses of Parliament square in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)
Police talking to protesters outside Downing Street, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Amina Malik/PA Wire
Police talking to protesters outside Downing Street, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Amina Malik/PA Wire
Police talking to protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Jess Glass/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament.Jess Glass/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament.Jess Glass/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament.Jess Glass/PA Wire
Kayden, 11, waves an EU flag and Union Jack in front of a line of police officers outside Downing Street, London Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Anti-Brexit supporters take part in a protest at College Green near the Houses of Parliament in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Protesters stop traffic outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as they demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters stop traffic outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as they demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters stop traffice outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as they demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Anti-Brexit supporters take part in a protest near the Houses of Parliament in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson maneuvered Wednesday to give his political opponents even less time to block a no-deal Brexit before the Oct. 31 withdrawal deadline, winning Queen Elizabeth II's approval to suspend Parliament. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott addresses protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott joins protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters from Another Europe is Possible outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament.Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott addresses protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protestors from Another Europe is Possible outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protestors from Another Europe is Possible outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Paul Mason addresses protesters from Another Europe is Possible outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as they demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

But he left without further problems as a small number of police officers looked on.

In Belfast, a small crowd was gathered in front of City Hall by 11am.

The diverse gathering included foreign nationals concerned about their status post-Brexit, and local people angered by the move to prorogue Parliament.

Several people made impromptu speeches condemning Boris Johnson's move, while a number of police officers monitored the event.

London Metropolitan Police is aiming to shut down an on-going protest through negotiations with dozens of Anti-Brexit supporters who continue to participate in a late evening protest blocking the Houses of Parliament square in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)
London Metropolitan Police is aiming to shut down an on-going protest through negotiations with dozens of Anti-Brexit supporters who continue to participate in a late evening protest blocking the Houses of Parliament square in central London, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)

Organisers urged fellow demonstrators to stay as long as they could and spread word of the protest on social media.

Hundreds of protesters brought London's Whitehall to a standstill - with demonstrators stretching across much of the usually busy road as they gathered outside the gates of Number 10.

Police talking to protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Jess Glass/PA Wire
Police talking to protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as demonstrations continue against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Jess Glass/PA Wire

Chanting of "Boris Johnson shame on you", punctuated by the clanging of a bell, blowing of whistles and bang of a drum echoed around the surrounding Government buildings, as many carried placards and European Union flags.

Chris McHugh, from Gateshead, attended a protest in Newcastle he said was about "protecting democracy".

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

The 33-year-old, who works for Labour MP Liz Twist, told the PA news agency: "The fact that thousands have taken to the streets of Newcastle today is so telling.

"People from all walks of life have come together... there's a real sense of unity, whether you voted Leave or Remain, this is about protecting the very fabric of our democracy."

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

As the chanting outside Downing Street continued, many protesters got creative with their descriptions of the Prime Minister.

Their shouting evolved to include: "Trump's puppet, shame on you", "Liar Johnson shame on you", and "Facist Johnson shame on you."

Protestors from Another Europe is Possible outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protestors from Another Europe is Possible outside the Houses of Parliament, London, to demonstrate against Prime Minister Boris Johnson temporarily closing down the Commons from the second week of September until October 14 when there will be a Queen's Speech to open a new session of Parliament. Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott addressed the large crowd from a stage positioned near Number 10, and said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had sent his support for the demonstration.

"We are here outside 10 Downing Street trying to get Boris Johnson's attention, but let me tell you, before too long Jeremy Corbyn will be in 10 Downing Street and Boris will be gone," she said.

Ms Abbott tried to rally those in front of her with the cry of "What do we want to do" - expecting a reply of "stop the coup" - but many shouted "Where is Jeremy?" in response to the Hackney North MP.

On a sun-drenched Whitehall, Ms Abbott added: "We cannot allow Boris Johnson to shut down Parliament and to shut down the voice of ordinary British people."

As she highlighted how the Tories "thought they could get away with it" and how the protesters are there to say they will not, there were sporadic cries of "how?" from those in crowd.

Lesley McKie protested outside Boris Johnson's old Oxford University college, where she was joined by current students.

"Being outside the very institution where he developed political profile with students at the college today denouncing him sends a powerful message to Johnson and the others leading this coup," the 55-year-old told the PA news agency outside Balliol College.

"I'm here today with my family. My teen daughters deserve to live in a democracy and we're here to protest against the undemocratic actions of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings."

She said it is the first protest she has attended, but she felt compelled to act as she feels "extremely worried about the future of our country".

A crowd of more than 1,000 gathered at Cathedral Gardens in Manchester city centre.

Among the speakers were Labour MEP Julie Ward and broadcaster Paul Mason.

Former BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News correspondent Mr Mason encouraged the crowd to chant "Stop the Coup".

A short distance away, a small group of pro-Brexit supporters stood outside the National Football Museum, with a line of about 20 police officers watching on.

Behind the officers, people jeered and shouted "Bollocks to Brexit", as one man sang "One Boris Johnson, there's only one Boris Johnson" into a loudhailer.

A couple of thousand protesters marched through Bristol city centre, bringing traffic to a standstill.

People gathered at College Green and looped around the city, through the middle of the Broadmead shopping area and back to meet at Bristol Cenotaph.

They shouted "What do we want? Democracy! When do we want it? Now!", "Boris Johnson, shame on you" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Boris Johnson's got to go".

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the large crowd gathered on Whitehall: "It is a fight to protect our democracy - we know what Boris Johnson is up to, it is not very subtle is it?

"He wants to close down our democracy and force through a no-deal Brexit."

Mr McDonnell said previous generations fought and made huge sacrifices, some giving their lives, in the fight for parliamentary democracy so they could "have their say over policies and the future of our country".

He added: "Boris Johnson, this is not about Parliament versus the people, this is about you versus the people."

Self-styled yellow vest protester James Goddard also took to the loudhailer in the pro-Brexit group gathered in Manchester.

Wearing a Trump 2020 T-shirt and a Public Enemy baseball cap backwards, he was jeered by anti-Brexit supporters.

Goddard invited them for one-on-one conversations on camera but police prevented anyone coming forward.

He was banned from going near Parliament for five years after hurling abuse at Remain-supporting MP Anna Soubry and was handed an eight-week jail sentence, suspended for a year.

NHS pharmacist Bridie Walton, 55, joined protesters in Exeter and condemned the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue Parliament, saying: "Nobody voted for a dictatorship.

"These are the actions of a man who is afraid his arguments will not stand scrutiny.

"Before the Brexit vote I'd never been to a demo in my life... [I am] watching a nastier world emerge."

Crowds in Manchester swelled to several thousand as Stop the Coup campaigners moved to Albert Square to continue speeches, which were greeted with rapturous applause.

As the speeches finished on Whitehall just before 2pm, a number of protesters shouting "stop the coup" and "our democracy and Parliament is under attack" blocked Westminster Bridge - bringing the River Thames crossing to a standstill.

Demonstrators have begun to march to the opposite side of Westminster Bridge, shouting: "If you shut down our Parliament, we shut down your bridge."

Thousands of people have gathered in George Square in the centre of Glasgow at a People's Assembly Defend Democracy rally against the prorogation of Parliament and calling for a general election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to be among the speakers, ending his three-day visit to Scotland.

After speaking at a demonstration in her Brighton constituency, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas thanked those who came out to protest.

"This is what democracy looks like," she tweeted. "This is about more than #Brexit.

"A democracy worthy of name isn't one where power is hoarded at the top.

"We need a #CitizensConvention to put people at heart of our politics, not feral elites."

Several hundred protesters gathered in Birmingham's Victoria Square to hear speeches opposing the proroguing of Parliament.

In heavy rain, Labour's West Midlands MEP Neena Gill told the crowd: "When I heard what was going on this week, I was actually gobsmacked.

"Boris may think he can shut down Parliament, but he cannot shut down the people."

Hitting out at "right-wing Brexiteers" who she claimed aim to roll back hard-won rights and change the face of Britain, Ms Gill added: "No-deal Brexit will be a complete catastrophe for this country and this region.

"These Brexiteers and the Brexit Party have tried to mislead people - they are almost grooming our society to make them think that no-deal is good for them."

Anti-Brexit demonstrators then marched along nearby New Street, Temple Street and Waterloo Street - with a handful of by-standers shouting pro-Brexit slogans, including a group of men chanting "Boris Johnson's barmy army".

A large number of London demonstrators have also brought Trafalgar Square to a standstill - with some sitting in the road as part of their ongoing protest.

Speaking in Glasgow's George Square, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I'm proud to be here with all of you supporting that, to say to Boris Johnson no way, it's our Parliament.

"No way do you take us out without a deal - we will stop you and give the people their rights and their say to determine their future."

He said he is backing the protests all over the country, adding: "Demonstrations are taking place everywhere because people are angered and outraged about what is happening.

"Angered that the Government and a Prime Minister elected by 93,000 members of the Tory party is trying to hijack the needs, aims and aspirations of 65 million people.

"Well think on Boris, it's not on and we're not having it."

Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, told protesters in the city that people should take to the streets to demonstrate against the Prime Minister and not allow "democracy to die".

He added: "Thank-you to the thousands of you that have marched through the streets of Bristol and across the country to make it clear we will not stand down when our democracy is being shut down.

"We are members of Parliament and Parliament is where we should be making your voice heard loud and clear, with the power of our vote and the ability to hold the Government to account.

"If Boris Johnson thinks he can turn Britain into an autocracy, he has got another think coming.

"If the Prime Minister is able to close down Parliament, we need to be able to bring it to the streets because we are your voice in Parliament and our democracy is about all of us.

"What is clear from all of you today, and in towns and cities up and down the country, is that the British people will not let democracy die."

Liberal Democrat Stephen Williams, a former MP for Bristol West, told the same protest that Boris Johnson had lied to the public during the 2016 referendum.

"Democracy is never a one-off event, whether it is a referendum or an election. It is quite clear in 2016 we were lied to," he said.

"We were lied to by the man who is now our Prime Minister. Boris Johnson was one of the people in 2016 who said this was all about Parliamentary sovereignty and this is all about taking back control.

"What have his actions shown us? He doesn't give a toss about Parliamentary sovereignty.

"All he cares about is being in power himself and being in power for his class of people so they can be the people who rule over us. We must stand up to that.

"What Johnson has done is wipe out most of the September calendar, wipe out most of the October calendar, leaving them with about four days to make the most important decision of any of our lifetimes and the most important decision that this 650 people will ever have to make.

"That is worthy of North Korea, not Great Britain."

Irwin Lewis was one of the drivers caught up in the London protest which was blocking much of Trafalgar Square, and he told the PA news agency he had been stuck for almost two hours.

The 57-year-old, from Forest Hill, south-east London, said: "It is not a problem. I would not go out demonstrating, but I support what they are doing. Someone has got to protest."

Black cab driver Ben Broster said he was losing income as a result of the action, and that it was "frustrating" he had been trapped for more than an hour.

He added: "I am stuck here now, what else are you supposed to do? Whether you support it or not, this is not the way to go about things."

With protesters sitting in the road blocking his path out of Trafalgar Square, he said: "There is nothing stopping them saying 'fair enough we will let you lot out'."

Standing in front of the Cenotaph, flanked by ranks of police officers, a small number of Brexit supporters unfurled and stood with a "Brexit Now" banner.

Their presence drew angry counter chants and attention from those who were part of the Stop the Coup demonstration, including shouts of "where's your Tommy gone?".

One Brexit protester, who left the area where his group had been stood with the Brexit now banner, was aggressively followed by stop the coup supporters.

Police struggled to prevent the visibly angry crowd from swarming around him, as they shouted "Brexit scum" at the man and appeared to try and provoke a reaction from him.

The man, who was wearing a grey jumper, was pursued into Westminster tube station to cheers from the crowd which had been hot on his heels.

Police officers began moving protesters off the roads around Trafalgar Square back on to Whitehall at around 4.30pm.

Forming a tight line, they physically pushed demonstrators in the direction away from Nelson's Column - and were met with resistance as they did.

Some of those gathered appeared to refuse to move and chanted "whose streets? Our streets", and could be seen trying to cling on to each other to stop the progress of the officers.

Organisers of the protest in Bristol later estimated that 5,000 people had joined the march.

A further rally will take place on Tuesday in the city, which has been organised by the Bristol People's Assembly.

Paula Carlyle, from Kirkby, Merseyside, said she was "proud" to join protesters in Liverpool city centre.

"Today I was proud to stand alongside people who believe we must stand up to defend our democracy against Mr Johnson and his attempt to silence our voices through proroguing Parliament," the 40-year-old told PA.

"It was brilliant to see people, young and old, who voted both Remain and Leave, standing alongside each other to say loud and clear, enough is enough, of this despicable Tory Government.

"We will not be silenced. Without us you have no power and we will continue to show ours until Mr Johnson is stopped."

PA Media

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