The Put it to the People march took over London streets with demonstrators from across the UK and Europe
“We’re marching because Brexit is toxic,” says 18-year-old Zoe and Ania. On Saturday (March 23), a reported one million people gathered to march through central London, calling for a second referendum on Brexit.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters swarmed the streets, beginning at Park Lane before culminating in a rally at Parliament Square at midday. A huge banner across Westminster Bridge was unfurled that read ‘Love socialism, hate Brexit’. The numbers of people – organisers of Put it to the People have estimated it at one million – puts the protest at the same size as the biggest march of the century, 2003’s Stop the War protest.
The day saw protesters of all ages, genders and backgrounds gather together from across the UK, the EU and beyond. A sea of people was dappled with the blue and yellow colours of the EU, with people dancing, playing the drums and music, displaying broad spectrum of DIY placards and signs. Some were on the humorous side – an ‘Everything is fine’ burning house meme makes an appearance, as well as a Marie Kondo reference – while others were serious: ‘Brexit is treason’ read one, while others zoned in on the spike in hate crimes since the vote.
“We are marching for our rights to stay here after Brexit and to revoke Article 50,” Josephine and Vincent told Dazed, a French couple who live in London.
“I’m marching because this is the most important thing that’s happened in a generation. We’re better together and we’re better in Europe,” Sophia from Reading added.
19-year-old William from Chelmsford also told Dazed: “I was too young to vote in the last Brexit referendum, so I’m here to be included this time”.
Rhys Brown, a 20-year-old student from the University of Kent and a member of the Canterbury Young Europeans society said: “I came to London today along with two coach loads of students for this march. We’re here because the first referendum was illegal, and to say that it's okay for people to change their minds.”
“This march is important - we’ve reached a critical time now and it’s clear that people don’t want Brexit and we’re showing it on this march”
“I’m marching because if Brexit happens, it will ruin my future and everyone else’s,” 11-year-old Sophie from Sheffield asserted.
Multiple MPs from across the UK parties stood with demonstrators and gave speeches in support of a second vote. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon told crowds that prime minister Theresa May had pitched “parliament against the people”. “Let the people speak,” she demanded, before asking that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn back another referendum.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was also present and spoke onstage. He told the crowd he was a “proud European”, calling for the time to withdraw Article 50.
“No matter how you voted in the referendum, no matter what political party you support, we can all agree that Brexit has been a complete and utter mess,” Khan said. “With days to go we're in danger of falling of the cliff, which will have catastrophic consequences.”
News about Brexit continues to waver and lurch – just today (March 25), it emerged that May was expected to update ministers on her current Brexit strategy in a cabinet meeting. Across the weekend there have been multiple calls for her resignation and speculation about her position, and what that would mean for a deal. May’s deal has been rejected by MPs in the Commons twice. The EU is reportedly preparing for a no-deal. Last week, May had to ask the EU for an extension on Article 50 – which is a five-point plan to remove a country from the EU – as talks continued.
The number of signatures on a record-breaking online petition calling for Brexit to be cancelled continues to rise, currently hitting more than four million.