Mon, Mar 25, 2019 - Page 5 News List

A million-plus march against Brexit

The Observer and The Guardian

An effigy of British Prime Minister Theresa May is wheeled through Trafalgar Square during a People’s Vote anti-Brexit march in London on Saturday.

Photo: AP

In one of the biggest demonstrations in British history, on Saturday a crowd estimated at more than 1 million people marched peacefully through central London to demand that lawmakers grant them a fresh referendum on Brexit.

The Put It To The People march included protesters from all corners of the UK and many EU nationals living in the UK.

Organizers of the march said precise numbers had been difficult to gauge, but they believed the protest could have been even bigger than that against the Iraq war in February 2003.

The decision by so many to take part, waving EU flags and banners and carrying effigies of British Prime Minister Theresa May, came just three days after she said in a televised statement to the nation that she believed the British people did not support another referendum, and blamed lawmakers for trying to block their will.

Senior politicians from all the main parties joined the march, including Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson, former British deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon.

Addressing the crowd in Parliament Square — as chants of “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?” rang out — Watson said May could not ignore the march and had to give the people a second vote.

“The prime minister claims she speaks for Britain. Well, have a look out of the window, prime minister,” he said. “Open your curtains. Switch on your TV. Look at this great crowd today. Here are the people. Theresa May: you don’t speak for us.”

Labour’s attempts to find common ground on Brexit had been rebuffed, he said.

“At every turn, we have been ignored. At every stage, Theresa May has doubled down rather than reaching out. The way to break the stalemate is for parliament and the people to come together. The way to reunite our country is to decide on our future together. It’s time to say with one voice: put it to the people. Prime minister, you have lost control. Let the people take back control,” he said.

As Conservative lawmakers and ministers from both sides of the Brexit argument said May could not last in office for many more days — and Downing Street appeared to threaten them with a general election if her deal does not pass this week — Heseltine laid blame for the current crisis at her door.

“Generals who lose wars blame the troops. Managers who break their companies blame the workers. Now we can add prime ministers who lose elections blame their MPs,” he said.

Heseltine closed the rally with an appeal to young people to defend democracy and Britain’s place in the world.

“Walk tall. Keep the faith. Go back to your villages, your towns and your cities,” he said. “Tell them you were here. Outside the buildings that inspire democracy. Fighting for our tomorrow.”

Sturgeon said that the EU’s decision on Thursday to delay Brexit day from this Friday until 12 April at the earliest had created more time to prevent disaster.

“This is now the moment of maximum opportunity — we need to avoid both the catastrophe of no-deal and the damage which would be caused by the prime minister’s bad deal,” she said.

Organizers said that cellphone networks jammed and many people barely moved all afternoon as the crowd exceeded expectations.

A petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked on Saturday passed 4.5 million signatories, making it the most popular the government petitions Web site has ever hosted. Once any petition of this sort passes 100,000, parliament has to consider debating it.

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