#StopTheCoup protests gain momentum ahead of parliamentary showdown

© James Kelly

Anti-prorogation rallies will take place in dozens of cities across the country in the coming days as the #StopTheCoup coalition continues to gain momentum ahead of next week’s parliamentary showdown. Demonstrators in more than 30 towns and cities across the UK took to the streets on Saturday to protest Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament.

Organisers say that more than 100,000 people participated in #StopTheCoup demonstrations in London where they were joined by trade unionists, politicians and grassroots activists – including Labour’s Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Dawn Butler and Barry Gardiner. Addressing the crowds that gathered outside the gates of Downing Street on Saturday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “This is a fight to protect our democracy. We know what Johnson is up to. It’s not very subtle is it? He wants to shut down our democracy to force through a no-deal Brexit.

“In solidarity, working together, and exercising our democratic right to assemble to demonstrate in opposition to this attack on democracy, we believe that we the people will win.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you voted Leave or Remain. What matters is that we are mobilising against a Tory Prime Minister who wants to close down parliament,” Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said. She added: “We cannot allow Boris Johnson to shut down parliament and to shut down the voice of ordinary British people.”

UCU general secretary Jo Grady told the crowd: “No matter what happens on the 31st of October, if you want to know what real democracy feels like then I have one simple message: join a trade union.”

From Glasgow to Brighton, more than 80 #StopTheCoup coalition rallies and demonstrations on Saturday brought city centres up and down the country to a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in the protests according to Another Europe is Possible, a leading organiser of the demonstrations alongside Momentum and the Green Party. Protests also took place in Berlin, Amsterdam and outside the British Embassy in Latvia.

The wave of nationwide protest follows Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks ahead of the October 31st Brexit deadline. Johnson’s suspension of parliament – the longest in four decades – significantly reduces the amount of time available to MPs aiming to legislate against a no deal exit. Johnson’s decision was announced just one day after a cross-party alliance convened by Jeremy Corbyn had agreed on tactics to prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a deal.

Michael Chessum, the national organiser for AEIP, said: “In the coming weeks we are going to have to build a movement that is stronger than the hundreds of thousands that are on the streets today.  We’re going to have to build a movement of millions of people. When the ordinary processes of democracy fail – when the government insists on delivering an extreme Brexit program by taking away what basic democratic rights we expect in our system – we will take non-violent civil disobedience. Because if a protest movement cannot disrupt ultimately it is toothless.”

Protestors shut down central London, blocking traffic in Trafalgar Square and occupying Waterloo bridge while chanting “You shut down the parliament, we shut down the streets.” Islington Green Party councillor Caroline Russell was among those arrested. Meanwhile, crowds descended on Buckingham Palace.

Jeremy Corbyn – who encouraged all Labour MPs to participate in the nationwide protests – joined the demonstrators who packed George Square in Glasgow. “I’m proud to be here with all of you supporting that, to say to Boris Johnson no way, it’s our parliament,” the Labour leader said. “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.”

Anti-prorogation protests will continue this week when MPs return from recess. Speculation that the Prime Minister would ignore legislative efforts to spoil his Brexit plans mounted after Michael Gove refused to rule out whether the government would ignore legislation blocking no deal.

The #StopTheCoup coalition has called for daily demonstrations from 5:30pm, with dozens of protests set to take place this week in more than 30 cities across the country. Organisers are staging a democratic assembly in Parliament Square on Monday to discuss what actions should be taken moving forward.

More from LabourList