By Abi Dudbridge
On October 20th, thousands of people flooded the streets of London demanding a People’s Vote in the form of a final say on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The People’s Vote protest started at Park Lane and ended in Parliament Square, passing the doors of Number 10 itself.
Crowds were so large that thousands didn’t actually make it to the rally in Parliament Square and instead lined Whitehall back to Trafalgar Square. The huge demonstration put London into stand-still with at least 670,000 protestors marching, vastly surpassing the expected figure of just 100,000 people. The turnout means it was the largest demonstration in the city since 2003, when one million demonstrators marched in protest against the Iraq war.
At the forefront of the march were students, swamping the streets wearing pink shirts reading ‘I’m marching for my future’. From a number of polls conducted by the likes of YouGov, Ipsos-Mori and Lord Ashcroft, it is estimated that 70-75% of under 24-year-olds voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, contextualising why there was such a large turnout of students and young people attending the march.
The march turned into more of a shuffle due to the extensive crowds, attracting a huge news media presence. Those marching included the President of the NUS Shakira Martin, Vice President Amatey Doku, and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, an avid supporter of the People’s Vote movement.
Khan addressed the crowds, criticizing the government of leading the UK “towards either a bad Brexit deal, or even worse, no deal at all”. He added that “no one voted to make it more difficult for their children and grandchildren” in the future, mimicking the consensus that Brexit will simply affect those who wanted it the least: young people.
One student, who was too young by 5 months to vote in the 2016 referendum, described the demonstration as her “last chance to have her voice finally heard, before it’s too late”. The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29th March 2019 under the terms of the two-year Article 50 process. Protestors fear that Britain will be left with either a bad deal or no deal at all.
Femi Oluwole, from the nation-wide youth group Our Future Our Choice stated “what we are trying to do is bring people together, as nobody has any confidence in what the government is doing”.
Banners being marched read “build unions, not borders” and “Please don’t make me Leave”, illustrating concerns that the UK will be further distanced from our closest neighbours in Europe.
However, Theresa May has stated “we held a people’s vote, it was the referendum in 2016. It is now a matter of trust in politicians that we should deliver on the will of the British people.” The PM argues that having a People’s Vote will take us back to ‘square one’, and urges that MPs “hold their nerve” and work together to produce the best possible Brexit deal for the UK.
The march suggested that the unrest caused by Brexit is far from over and is instead growing, with this demonstration being by far the largest People’s Vote rally to date. But, with Theresa May vowing to not give in to these protestors, we can only wait and see what the negotiations bring next.