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20th Oct 2018

Protesters flood streets of London as over 500,000 call for People’s Vote on Brexit

James Dawson

Estimates make Saturday’s People’s Vote march for another EU referendum the second largest this century

Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through central London on Saturday afternoon to demand a People’s Vote on Britain’s final Brexit deal.

Organisers said they believed the total number of attendees to be in excess of 500,000, as politicians and activists from across the political spectrum came together to call for the British people to be given a second say on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The demonstration gathered at 12pm on Park Lane before masses of protesters began their route through the centre of the capital. The march was led by young voters and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, after over 150 coaches brought demonstrators to the capital from across the UK, with some coming from places as remote as Orkney.

In the crowd, fury at those responsible for Brexit was palpable, with signs branding Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg “liars” and chants of “What do we want? A People’s Vote. When do we want it? Now!” as masses of people descended onto Parliament Square.

Speaking to JOE, Oli Jones, 32, said he had travelled to the protest with his young son, because his wife is from the Czech Republic and Britain’s withdrawal from the EU had plunged their future into doubt.

“I’m here for the same reason as all these people,” he said. “Because Brexit is a ridiculous farce. We think that it is important that our family is here.

“But it’s not just that, leaving the EU could also end the United Kingdom as we know it. It could destroy the union because if we leave the EU and the Scots decide to split and become independent, then it will just be [England] alone on an island.”

At the head of the protest Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was joined by Conservative backbencher Anna Soubry, former Labour shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna and Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who held a sign together demanding “a final vote on the Brexit deal.” Lib Dem leader Sir Vince and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas were also in attendance.

But this was a protest that galvanised support from young and old alike. Fifteen-year-old Amy – who has yet to take her GCSEs – travelled to the protest from the outskirts of London along with two friends with handmade placards reading “Knowing me, Knowing EU… there’s nothing we can do,” “We love the EU” and “Bollocks to Brexit.”

Explaining why she was attending the protest, she said: “I came here to get my voice heard because Brexit is just a bad idea and it affects our future more than the older generation.

“There’s a huge sense of community in being in the European Union. Leaving the EU won’t benefit the UK, we’ll just lose out and it will detract from our future.”

Having initially estimated attendance at the march at  570,000 people, People’s Vote organisers later revised the figure to 670,000. If true, the number would make Saturday’s demonstration one of the largest to be held in the UK this century – second only to the 2,000,000 people believed to have demonstrated against the War in Iraq.

JOE asked Alastair Campbell why he thought anyone should listen to the demonstration when his own government ignored the much larger Stop the War march. He said: “We were well aware that millions of people opposed it and millions of people marched against it. But we had a united cabinet, a vote in parliament and, let me tell you, Tony Blair won another election after it.”

Meanwhile 64-year-old Andrew Burgin told JOE  that he was at the protest to oppose a “Tory Brexit” led by Theresa May’s government and linked the vote to the “rise of the right” across Europe.

“It’s like the 1930s,” he said. “The far-right are rising off the back of a very serious economic crisis. I want to see a socialist Europe, a Europe that is pro-immigration and doesn’t denigrate refugees, and avoids going down a nationalist, Little-Englander path.”

Despite huge numbers taking to the streets, Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly ruled out holding a second referendum on Brexit. Recent research has suggested that over two and a half million people have now changed their mind and no longer want to leave the European Union, and that a majority of Brits believe the decision to leave was wrong in hindsight.