Written by Chirine Aboussaad
The United Kingdom and Europe have been obsessed with the impending Brexit ever since the referendum back in 2016. The United Kingdom was set to leave the European Union on March 29th, they didn’t. Brexit’s leave voters are fed up and used the original Brexit date to demonstrate on Parliament Square.
LONDON, 29 March 2019 – The area around Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square is bustling with tourists from dozens of different nationalities happily clicking away on their cameras and phones. Their holiday snapshots and selfies feature big smiles, beautiful architecture and unusually nice weather for March.
It is noon and the smell of diesel from the busy traffic on Victoria Street clings heavily in the air. If you listen closely you can hear faint drums and chanting in the distance, growing louder as the voices inch closer and closer. The chants take shape in the form of a crowd that comes marching around the corner towards Westminster Abbey. An older man with greying hair puts a megaphone in front of his mouth and yells: “What do we want?” Without missing a beat of the drums, the crowd responds “Brexit!” “When do we want it?” he yells back and again the crowd responds “Now!” The repeat this again and again and again as they march towards the green plains of Parliament Square.
Likeminded people are there waiting for them to join the protest. Today is the day the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union after the majority voted ‘leave’ in 2016’s infamous ‘Brexit’ referendum. The protesters that are gathered here today are angry because their votes aren’t being honoured and the official Brexit date has been pushed back.
One of the more vocal protesters, many protesters are lounging on the grass with their signs by their side, is David Bellamy who is representing the Derbyshire division of social organisation ‘Leavers of Britain’. “It’s very simple. parliament gave the people a choice on what to do next”. He clicks his tongue between words, “it was a binary choice between leaving the EU and staying in the EU. The government warned us about all the bad things that would happen if we left and we still chose to leave. It doesn’t really matter what politicians think now, they have a job to do, to implement it.”
David adjusts his glasses ever so slightly and straightens his back, it is clear that he takes this cause to heart. “They have a job to do. If they can’t get a deal, it’s fine; we’ll leave with a no-deal Brexit. It’s really that simple”. He mentions that he doesn’t trust most of British media to report on Brexit truthfully: “We have to go to Russian television to get a balanced view of Brexit, that’s absolutely frightening” he scrunches his face for emphasis and repeats “Absolutely frightening that we have to go to Russia Today for a balanced view on Brexit, that’s not a good thing for democracy”.
A little further on someone holds up a white sheet with letters painted on in red and black paint. The black letters spell out ‘parliament’ vertically and for each letter there are two or more negative words starting with the same letter spelled out horizontally. P is for poisonous and pompous, A is for abandon, abuse and anti-Brexit and so on. The banner demands so much attention of the eyes that it is fairly easy to miss the blonde hair and glasses peeking out above it. Alicia’s beliefs are just as clear cut as her banner: “It’s not about leave or remain anymore. It’s about our democracy. The vote was put to the people, we voted, we had a majority vote and it is being ignored.” She pauses and looks into the distance in the direction of the Palace of Westminster where parliament is housed, she spits out the next words with heavy disdain “That can’t happen, they’re traitors”.
A group of people donning black shirts that refer to a website for a nationalist group called ‘The Pendragons’ are squabbling amongst themselves. One of them, Sally, makes for a striking picture; a flag is draped over her lap, she holds a ‘leave means leave’ sign in one hand and a black pendragon flag in the other. If her stance on Brexit wasn’t clear from her outfit or decorations, her words on the subject are just as straight to the point: “We voted to leave the EU and we want to leave. Not a deal. Out means out.”
Sally also explains her t-shirt: “We are Pendragons, that means that we want to take back control of our country. We do not want it run by people that are not elected, that are not of this land. They are a part of Europe, we are not. This island has always been an island nation and it should stay that way.” Sally’s husband Richard, a stout man with a metal chain hanging from his belt loops, joins in “We are being entered into a dictatorship and we’re fighting against it”. A Pendragon wearing a red baseball cap calls for Sally and Richard’s attention, she can’t find her flag.
The protesters are quite cheerful despite their sullen opinion on the current state of Brexit. They are exchanging opinions, buying flags and drinking pints of lager in plastic to-go cups from nearby pubs. Some are just arriving, emerging from the filthy stairs of the Westminster tube station. It is still early, they have a long day of protesting ahead of them on what they wished to be a day of celebration.