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‘Stop the coup’: Protests across UK over Johnson’s suspension of parliament

Within hours of Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament, impromptu protests were being held in major city centres across the country, including in front of the Palace of Westminster in central London.

Demonstrations were scheduled to be held from late afternoon onwards in areas including Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Brighton, Durham, Milton Keynes and Chester.

Protesters gathered at Commons Green, just outside Parliament, and marched towards Downing Street. Organisers claimed the crowd numbered in the thousands.

Parlement sent home by Boris Johnson.

The demonstrators described the move to suspend parliament as a coup and called for Johnson to resign. At one point, the traffic at Downing Street was at a standstill as protesters chanted “save our democracy, stop the coup” and sang “No one voted for Boris”.

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Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green party, was one of many opposition politicians present. She said: “We’re here to stand against Boris Johnson’s coup. We have a representative democracy and by suspending parliament, you are removing people’s democratic right.”

Speaking of the decision to prorogue, she said: “I feel like we’ve been expecting this for a while but I didn’t think he would make such a brutal move that showed such a disregard for our parliamentary procedures.”

She added: “I think what he has done is unite parts of the country who don’t support a no-deal and his form of process that is denying democracy.”

Jane Keane, 54, said she had been protesting every day since Michael Gove announced the government would start making preparations for a no-deal. “It is a complete contradiction to what parliament has said three times. They’ve said no deal is unacceptable. My understanding is parliament is sovereign not Boris Johnson.”

She said she did not have a history of activism , but as someone who has recently survived cancer she was terrified of the impact a no-deal Brexit will have on medical supplies.

Michael Chessum, the national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “Today’s protest was huge and exceeded all expectations. We got thousands at four hours’ notice. We cannot rely on the judiciary or parliamentary process to save democracy – we need a mass movement of protest and civil disobedience.”

Andrew Lake, a 23-year-old actor, carried a sign that read: “Call this a democracy?” He said: “I’m here today to save democracy. I’m not entirely surprised when he [Johnson] suspended parliament. I have been expecting it to happen.

Emma Cooper, 28, a teaching assistant, said: “I feel absolutely livid. I haven’t been to a protest for a long time … What’s happening in this country and the rightwing shift around the world is really worrying. I think Brexit is xenophobia extended to a bigger level.”n. The fact it was expected doesn’t make it any less of an outrage.”

Emma Cooper

Meanwhile in Manchester, a growing crowd of around 250 protesters had gathered by around 6pm in Albert Square by the town hall. Many were armed with umbrellas, some in solidarity with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest, some to protect against the rain. They chanted “stop the coup”, with signs reading “Hands off” and “protect our democracy”.

One of the organisers was Emma, 26, an immigration consultant, who said: “I’m here because I’m angry and shocked that our democracy could be ripped out from underneath us while we’re asleep at the wheel.” 

Her friend Noora, 27, a stand-up comedian, said they were inspired by the umbrella movement of Hong Kong. “We’re here to protest against the downgrading of democracy that is happening in the UK at the moment … I feel like we should make some kind of a stand. It might seem minor but you’re showing that it can’t continue like this.”

They were joined by Rory and Margaret, retired lecturers in their seventies. Rory said: “It’s the most flagrant attack on democracy that I can remember. It’s bad enough that [Boris Johnson] was elected leader by a handful of people but what was this taking back control all about? And sovereignty of parliament? Parliament has just been overruled. I think it’s an absolute outrage.”

Tallulah, 17, said she thought what was going on was “absolutely ridiculous. The facade of a democracy is being ripped apart.”

William, 18, agreed. “It’s absurd. I thought it was a joke the first time I saw the article about the Queen. But unfortunately, it’s not satire. And here we are.”

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