Brexit march: Hundreds of thousands join referendum protest
Kay Caldwell, top right, and her friend, Anne Jones, at the People’s Vote March.
By Democrat reporter PICTURES BY KAY CALDWELL
Hundreds of thousands of people have marched in central London calling for another EU referendum, as MPs search for a way out of the Brexit impasse.
Organisers of the “Put It To The People” campaign say more than a million people joined the march before rallying in front of Parliament.
It comes after the EU agreed to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.
PM Theresa May is coming under pressure to quit after saying she might not put her Brexit deal to a third vote by MPs.
She wrote to all MPs on Friday saying she will ditch plans to put the deal to another so-called meaningful vote if not enough MPs support it.
Unless her deal is passed by MPs, the UK will have to come up with an alternative plan or else face leaving without a deal on 12 April.
Crowds at the rally were told the initial count showed more than a million people had turned up – putting it on a par with the biggest march of the century, the Stop the War march in 2003.
There was no independent verification of the numbers but BBC correspondent Richard Lister, who was at the scene, said it was a “very densely packed” protest and people were still arriving in Parliament Square five hours after the march began.
He said: “The organisers say it was one million-strong, it’s very hard to verify those kinds of claims but this was a very significant march, well into the hundreds of thousands.”
At the scene
By Katie Wright, BBC News, in Park Lane
The streets around Park Lane were teeming with people hours ahead of the march’s scheduled 1pm start, having come from all corners of the country – and some from further beyond.
The blue and yellow of the EU was splashed all over the ever-expanding crowd, which was full of groups of families, friends, colleagues and political groups.
Many people came draped in flags and carried homemade signs, featuring slogans ranging from playful – “Never gonna give EU up” – to political – “Forget the Ides of March – beware the Brexit of May”. And then there were the plain angry – “Brexit is treason”.
One member of the crowd, German-born vet Chris Reichmann, described the atmosphere as a “carnival ” – with “lots of different nationalities” but “really British in a way”.
And it was noisy, with some of London’s most recognisable streets overflowing with people marching steadily to a soundtrack of beating drums, whistles and blaring horns.
Occasionally the hordes would erupt into spontaneous cheering, as well as chants of “What do we want? People’s vote. When do we want it? Now!”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted a video of himself joining demonstrators holding up a ‘Put it to the People’ banner at the front of the march as it began.
Meanwhile, a record-breaking online petition on Parliament’s website calling for Brexit to be cancelled by revoking Article 50 has attracted more than four million signatures.
As the number of signatures on the petition continued to climb, its creator Margaret Georgiadou said she had “received three death threats over the phone”, and a “torrent of abuse” via her Facebook account.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the petition could “give oxygen” to the campaign for another Brexit referendum.
But veteran Conservative MP John Redwood told the BBC: “We know that 16 million people wanted to stay in the EU, and some of those would still like to stay in the EU, and within that quite a few would like to have another go and have another referendum – but it was always a minority.”
People chanted for a “People’s Vote” as they marched, accompanied by marching bands, whistles and cheers
Speakers at the rally have included Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, right, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, former Tory turned independent MP Anna Soubry and former attorney general Dominic Grieve.
Mr Watson told the crowd in Parliament Square that Mrs May’s deal was a “lousy” one – whether you voted Leave or Remain.
He said he had this message for her: “I can only vote for a deal if you let the people vote on it too. Prime Minister, you’ve lost control of this process, you’re plunging the country into chaos, let the people take control.”
Ms Sturgeon said now was “the moment of maximum opportunity” to avoid a no-deal Brexit.