With only a few hours’ notice, thousands of people filled London’s Parliament Square on August 28 to protest against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to shut down parliament for several weeks ahead of the Brexit deadline on October 31.
The shutdown is aimed at undermining attempts by MPs to prevent a No-Deal Brexit, or attempts to move a motion of no confidence in Johnson’s leadership.
Chanting “You shut down the parliament, we shut down the streets”, more than 10,000 protesters blocked main thoroughfares around parliament for several hours.
More mass protests across the country are planned for August 31.
Within hours of the announcement, thousands of people had signed a pledge to “Resist No-Deal Brexit and defend democracy”.
The pledge, launched by the left-wing anti-Brexit group Another Europe is Possible, states: “If the government tries to drive No Deal through by stopping parliament from sitting, we cannot just rely on the courts and parliamentary process.
“We need a massive movement of resistance, with marches, civil disobedience and protests in every corner of the country.”
Ana Oppenheim, from Another Europe is Possible said: “Boris Johnson thinks he can get away with shutting down democracy and implementing a policy, No-Deal Brexit, which will wreck communities and undermine our rights — all in the name of making Britain a free market tax haven tied to Trump’s America.
“We can’t rely on parliament or the courts to stop him on their own — every single one of us needs to stand up and be counted. We need mass protests, civil disobedience and a democratic uprising. Everything is at stake.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Boris Johnson’s plan to suspend parliament to force through No-Deal would be the gravest abuse of power and attack on our constitution in living memory.
“A No-Deal Brexit is really a Trump-deal Brexit. It won’t return sovereignty. It won’t take back control. All it will do is put us at the mercy of [United States President] Donald Trump and the big US corporations who are desperate to get their teeth into our NHS [National Health Service].”
Labour MP John McDonnell tweeted: “Make no mistake, this is a very British coup. Whatever one’s views on Brexit, once you allow a Prime Minister to prevent the full and free operation of our democratic institutions you are on a very precarious path.”
Scottish National Party MP Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Shutting down Parliament in order to force through a No-Deal Brexit, which will do untold and lasting damage to the country against the wishes of MPs is not democracy, it’s dictatorship.”
Andy Stowe, from Socialist Resistance wrote: “This is a serious challenge to the entire British labour movement and takes the situation to a new level.
“It is an almost insurrectionary measure by a government which wants no opposition to get in its way.
“Labour is key to stopping this move and preventing a No-Deal Brexit on October 31st.
“Fortunately, whilst the Corbyn leadership has equivocated on taking a clear pro-remain position for a long time this changed yesterday when Corbyn took the leadership of the anti-Brexit campaign by calling a meeting of the leaders of the opposition parties to discuss the Parliamentary tactics for the coming weeks.
“Whether this was a factor in Johnson’s decision today we will never know. But it does put Labour in a strong position to lead the struggle at all levels against a hard-right project that is out to destroy jobs and hand chunks of the NHS to US corporations.
“Whilst Labour might feel that it has to make some nod to petitioning Elizabeth Windsor, this is class struggle and it must be opposed by class struggle methods — that is, inside and outside Parliament and on the streets and in the workplaces. If Johnson wins this, we will be in deep trouble.
“On one side stand Farage, Rees-Mogg and Johnson heading an alliance of the heirs of Enoch Powell, devotees of Ayn Rand, English nationalists and the [Democratic Unionist Party].
“On the other, as we saw at all the anti-Brexit demonstrations, [stand] migrant workers, progressives and internationalists. These are the supporters of free movement for half a billion and the opponents of climate change.”