British anti-Boris Johnson demonstrators interviewed


This 31 August 2019 video says about itself:

Stop The Coup: London protest against UK parliament suspension

Crowds in #London began to gain momentum on Saturday as a growing number of people joined #StopTheCoup protest against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament in the run-up to the #Brexit.

Protesters gathered near 10 Downing Street in central London.

Aerial footage showed the vast scale of the crowd.

By Robert Stevens in Britain:

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated around the UK on Saturday against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s authoritarian move to prorogue Parliament for five weeks from September 9.

Johnson took the measure last week in order prevent MPs from opposing his plans to leave the European Union (EU), even without a deal, on October 31.

Demonstrations took place in around 80 cities and towns. Many came to the protests with their own home-made placards to register their opposition to Johnson’s dictatorial move. Among these were “Stop the Coup”, “Defend Democracy”, “Your Majority is in the Minority”, “Hands off our parliament”, “Silencing parliament is not democracy”, “This is the thin end of a repressive wedge” and “Bring down the government, they don’t speak for us.” …

The numbers involved were vastly inflated by Another Europe is Possible, who claimed 100,000 were on the streets in London alone. Up to 20,000 in fact demonstrated in London along Whitehall and outside Downing Street, with protests in other cities ranging in size from 1,000 to around 5,000. …

The mood among many attending the protests was sober and questioning of why events over the last three years have led to the most right-wing government in living memory coming to power.

Among the protesters who spoke to the WSWS, there was a recognition that what was taking place was not simply about Brexit. But there was still a great deal of confusion produced by years of deliberate political disorientation. From the moment that former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron announced in 2016 that there would be a referendum on EU membership, the main parties of the ruling elite and their media echo chambers have sought to channel the population into taking sides by backing equally reactionary factions of the ruling elite on the issue of Brexit.

There was concern among some of those that attended—under conditions of staggering levels of social inequality and a declaration of war on democratic rights by the ruling class—that none of the parties leading the anti-Johnson campaign had any progressive solutions. SEP members distributed thousands of copies of a leaflet of the WSWS perspective, “Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament: The British ruling class declares war on democratic rights” at the protests. Eagerly taking a leaflet at the end of the London demonstration, one protester said, “I hope you’ve got a plan because nobody else here has.” …

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said a general strike was looking “more and more like the only way forward to stop our country falling into the hands of the undemocratic right.” He added, “[W]e cannot just rely on the courts and parliamentary process. We need a mass movement of resistance, with marches, civil disobedience and protests in every village, town and city of this country.” …

These are instructive events from which workers can draw many lessons. With the interests of the City of London and dominant sections of big business threatened by a chaotic no-deal exit from the EU, sections of the Labour and union bureaucracy are galvanized and ready to call for even a general strike! Workers should ask: Why were there no such proposals over the last decade during which the living standards of the working class were eviscerated, and millions thrust into poverty? Where were the calls for general strikes, occupations and emergency sessions of parliament at the news that at least 120,000 people have died unnecessary and premature deaths due to austerity measures and cuts over the last decade? To ask the question is to answer it.

From the World Socialist Web Site in Britain:

UK: Protesters condemn Johnson’s proroguing of parliament “We’ll wake up one day and all our rights will be gone if we don’t stand up and fight.”

By our reporters

2 September 2019

London

SEP members distributed thousands of copies of the article “Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament: The British ruling class declares war on democratic rights” at protests throughout the UK, including London, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Bristol. WSWS reporters spoke to those in attendance.

Laura from Kent attended with her friend Robert. They are university students. Laura said, “I think it [the suspension of parliament] sets a really dangerous precedent and a massive assault on democracy. It’s really worrying seeing this happen all around the world. It’s not just in Europe and
North America. You have it in Brazil and the Philippines, all these despots. The elites have absolute disregard for ordinary people.”

Robert (left) and Laura

Robert said, “I read that only 13 percent of the country are in favour of shutting down parliament. Even Leave voters don’t agree. They are saying I voted to leave the European Union, not to turn the UK into a dictatorship”.

Laura said, “I think people with nothing in their wallets will really feel Brexit. There could even be bread riots.” …

Barbara

Retired school teacher Barbara said, “I think that when you prorogue parliament, what you’re doing is you’re not allowing people to debate the issues at hand properly. I’ve looked at Boris Johnson’s domestic policies for after Brexit. He wants to give head teachers powers of “reasonable force” and make it easier to exclude pupils.

“This seems to be his whole approach to society and politics. He’s trying to do the same with parliament, by not allowing parliament to properly debate the Brexit issue, by trying instead to suppress it. I think it is the thin edge of the wedge. You go on in that direction and you’re moving towards a right-wing dictatorship.”

Grace

Grace, a graphic designer, said, “I’m here because it doesn’t feel right what Johnson has done. It’s technically legal but a lot of things are technically legal that aren’t right. It means that nobody that I could potentially have voted for gets to say anything for the next month about this event with massive implications for my future and my friends’ futures, and I’m deeply uncomfortable about that.”

Asked about the global attacks on democratic rights, she said, “It’s definitely concerning. There are a lot of people talking about the echoes of the 1930s today. It is a dangerous comparison to make, but sometimes you have to make them. And maybe if we do something and take to the streets, we can stop us going any further down that path.”

Grace added, “There are a lot of people who voted Leave for very valid reasons. I don’t think anyone is offering any sensible way forward. But at the same time, we do have to stand up and say what we’re not going to do is suspend parliament.”

Kate

Kate, an alumni relations officer, said “It’s the thin end of the wedge. We’re in a strongly nationalistic environment and I really worry about what people in power will start doing if something like this can go unchallenged. What’s really frightening is that the assumption now seems to be that people will not respond, that those in power can do whatever they like. It’s important that we start to react and say there are lines we won’t see eroded. This is bigger than Brexit, it is about our parliamentary democracy and whether we are going to keep it in the longer term.”

Asked about the policies of the Remain campaign, Kate responded, “Undoubtedly both sides in the debate are rotten to the core and if we stay in Europe then I would like to see substantial reforms… One thing the referendum was good for was exposing people’s discontent about the fact that we’re all being screwed by capitalism. The referendum model was pathetically crude and didn’t allow us to address these issues.”

Silas

Computer scientist Silas said, “I happen to support continued membership of the EU despite the issues that exist there… This is an outrage that’s trying to be passed off as just a few extra days [without debates], but any parliamentary business which started before the prorogation is then terminated, so that’s sleight of hand as an argument.”

“You can see the beginnings of a much more polarised Europe when you consider what’s going on in Poland and Hungary, which is pretty frightening. Hungary has a rampant anti-immigrant programme.”

Asked about the EU’s role in enforcing austerity, Silas said, “Dismantling some of the power structures of the EU would be a good start. If you look at the Troika and the way they were able to decree down to Southern Europe in general and Greece in particular… I’m not against overthrowing elements of the capitalist system. I agree that the EU is a bloc which represents the financial interests of the multinationals, by virtue of them being a significant constituency that they serve.”

Joe, an artist, said, “I started thinking recently about whether the planet is in the state it should be and if this is the way the world and the government should be. I feel like we live in a democracy of sorts, but I don’t feel like that democracy really serves the people of this country—definitely not the working class. Prorogation will just be another step in cordoning off power in a certain group of people, who are generally Etonian-educated like Boris Johnson. This is another step to take power away from the masses.”

Nadia made a home-made banner detailing the austerity measures imposed over a decade and their brutal results. It included the statement, “Solidarity with Leave voters who want better lives”. She said “I don’t think this [prorogation] is actually about Brexit at all. I think it’s just a way that they can eventually impose more austerity and siphon up more money to the rich.

“One of the important things about all this is there has been no discussion on austerity and why people voted Leave in the first place. I voted Remain but I’ve got loads of friends who voted Leave but the problem is I don’t think they would feel welcome at a demonstration like this. They saw a situation in which they could vote against the status quo and so they did. I’ve got enormous sympathy with Leave voters. They are not my enemy. My enemy is Boris Johnson and this government.”

Sheffield

In Sheffield, around 2,500 people rallied outside Sheffield City Hall. Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Greens politicians addressed the crowd calling for “unity” in the fight against Johnson. “We believe the best possible deal is through membership of the European Union”, local Greens leader Natalie Bennett told the crowd—a line that was repeated by every speaker.

These calls for “unity” were challenged after former Blairite Labour MP Dame Angela Smith tried to address the rally. She resigned in February to join Change UK, a group of cross-party independents. Her remarks were drowned out by calls from the crowd who demanded she resign, slamming her as a “hypocrite”.

Alan Hides

Alan Hides, a Labour Party member from Worksop, was among those who challenged Smith. “She’s a racist. She’s one of ‘the establishment’ as I call them, who have been going after Jeremy Corbyn on [bogus accusations of] “anti-Semitism” to get him out of the Labour leadership.” He said, “The 172 Blairites who have revolted against Corbyn should all be thrown out” …

Julie (centre) and June (right)

Julie said, “Everything is lurching really far to the right at the moment. We’ll wake up one day and all our rights will be gone if we don’t stand up and fight. I can’t understand why there isn’t a general strike. I don’t understand why everyone’s not saying, ‘We’re not having this’.”

June agreed, “Boris Johnson has got no mandate. A lot of it’s been about Brexit, but to me it’s not about Brexit anymore, it’s about our democracy and our rights being eroded. If we don’t stand up and say, ‘Not in our name’ then they’ll just walk all over us.”

June and Julie agreed the Brexit referendum had been used to divide the working class. Julie explained, “Five years ago nobody was saying anything about Brexit and look how quick they’ve set that division, alienated half the country from the other half of the country and how easily the media have done it and people have just bought into it. It’s scary.” …

Leeds

In Leeds, up to 2,000 protested. Protester Lenny Coates said, “I’m here to protest against the decision of a few narcissistic sociopaths who are acting to protect their wealth. …

“There is mass opposition under the surface. A lot of people are confused. They voted for Brexit because they thought it would provide more jobs … These things were used to stir people up. Today there’s a global assault on workers. We have to unite against the common enemy.”

Emma said, “No matter which way you voted in the referendum, it’s a dangerous step to prevent parliament from having a say in the decisions this government is making. We’ve been lied to on a massive scale and that has undermined democracy already. This is another step.”

Susan Baxter said, “I am here to protest against what Boris Johnson is doing with parliament. I don’t care if you voted leave or remain. This is about democracy itself. It’s the first time I have ever been on a protest and I’m 76 years of age.”

Dee

Carol is a history and politics teacher who supports the Labour Party. She said, “There are a lot of issues that worry me, especially the proroguing of parliament. It undermines parliamentary sovereignty.” She added, “My mum is foreign, she’s been here 40 years. Now she has to apply to stay.”

Dee said, “I’ve come here to protest against Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament. If I don’t say ‘No!’ now I can see the possibility of not ever having the chance to say ‘No!’ in the future. …

Daniela

Daniela said, “This is a huge crisis. I think this country is becoming more like America with no welfare state. The working class is having to pay for it. At one time my mum had to do three jobs. It really upsets me when I hear on the TV about people who can’t afford to feed their kids. I know that’s true because I’ve lived it. And that was 10 years ago so it’s much worse now. I want peace and unity. We have to stand our ground. They are trying to divide us.”

Protesters in Manchester's Albert Square

Manchester

About 2,000 people protested in Manchester. After rallying in Cathedral Gardens, demonstrators marched to the city’s main Albert Square outside the town hall.

Gabriel

PhD student Gabriel from Brazil said it was important to protest the attack on democratic rights in the UK and he condemned the illegal arrest and imprisonment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, “Julian Assange should have a huge flag [here]. Having a political prisoner is against the principles of democracy.”

Roma, a poet who works in schools, said, “We have a lot of issues with capitalism… We need people to be stop being so divided, it’s the whole divide and conquer thing.”

Hazel works as a cleaner and attended the rally with her daughter. “No prime minister has the right to close parliament…
People died for the right to vote. The EU needs a lot of improvements”, she said. “It’s like a private members’ club. It scares me how many far-right parties there are in the EU.”

Hazel continued, “I won’t be a member of the Labour party again. I joined when I was 16 and it was 1997 when I left. People have forgot the working class, but without the working class they’d be nowhere. The politicians are trying to divide and conquer the working class.”

Bristol

Several thousand protested in Bristol. They chanted slogans including “Boris is a liar” and “stop the coup.”

The protest in Bristol

Mandy said, “I’m appalled at the government thinking they can just go over the heads of the public, it makes me so angry.”

Asked what she thought about the growth of the far-right in Britain and internationally, she replied, “The violence we are now seeing as a result of the far right is frightening, and it’s another reason why I attended today.”

Mandy agreed that the EU had imposed austerity in many countries, with Greece being used as a trailblazer. “Like the Greeks, we’ve had years of austerity which have produced untold misery and gutted public services. Having witnessed first-hand what they did in Greece, I know the suffering the people have experienced. I fear for the future, but I won’t give up.”

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