Guardian0- In one of the largest public demonstrations in British history, a crowd estimated at around one million marched outside parliament to demand MPs grant them a fresh referendum on Brexit. It came amidts a House of Commons vote that was another defeat for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Sunday’s papers worked late into the night to paint Boris Johnson variously as a staunch leader battling the “Brexit wreckers” in the Commons, or as prime minister who had notched up another humiliating defeat.
The Observer carries a large picture of the People’s Vote march alongside news of Johnson’s “humiliating Commons defeat”. It reports his latest plans were thrown into chaos after MPs voted to withhold their approval, and says the prime minister will call on EU leaders to reject any Brexit extension.
The former Tory minister Oliver Letwin’s amendment passed 322 to 306. This means Boris Johnson did not get the clean yes or no vote on his Brexit deal that he had hoped for in Saturday’s “super sitting” and must by law request an extension. In short, it pushes the focus of Brexit decision-making into next week.
What was the Letwin amendment again?
The amendment says parliament will withhold approval of the prime minister’s deal until the withdrawal bill implementing Brexit has been passed.
This could be tabled next week with a series of votes kicking off on Tuesday. But the vote was overshadowed by the size and noise and jovial nature of the march.
Organisers of the march said the turnout, buoyed by the dry weather and the promise of “super Saturday”, was comparable to the previous second referendum rally six months ago, when a million people gathered in central London.
A spokesperson for the People’s Vote campaign said: “Our assessment is based on professional advice, there can be no doubt that this ranks as one of the greatest protests this country has ever seen.”
As MPs debated the future of the country inside Westminster, huge crowds assembled in Parliament Square and chanted for the British people to have a final say.
Led by London mayor Sadiq Khan, protesters from all corners of the UK had earlier gathered in Hyde Park, their numbers bolstered by many EU nationals living here, including a group of 50 pro-Catalan independence protesters.
Aerial footage showed people marching 40 abreast down Whitehall towards Westminster, a portion of central London completely swamped as the crowd filled all side streets along the route.
Many waved EU flags and placards stating: “Together for the final say,” the title of yesterday’s protest. Others held effigies of Boris Johnson, while one group pulled a float carrying a figure of senior Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings – with “Demonic Cummings” daubed across its forehead – using the prime minister as a puppet.
Shortly before 3pm, when news that MPs had voted to back the Oliver Letwin amendment broke, the thousands crammed in Parliament Square erupted wildly and began shouting “people’s vote”.
Later, Labour MP David Lammy revealed that he could hear the crowd from inside the Commons. Tweeting, he wrote: “We can hear your roar.”
As the celebrating crowd continued to spill into the streets outside Westminster, Sadiq Khan told them that EU citizens were a vital element of what made London a great city.
“They are our friends, members of our family, they are our colleagues. Over the last three years they have been feeling anxious, worried and heartbroken.
“I want you to look around. This is what democracy looks like,” said the capital’s mayor.
However, the upbeat atmosphere soured after the MPs’ vote when prominent Brexiters Andrea Leadsom and Jacob Rees-Mogg, walking with his son, were aggressively heckled by protesters despite a heavy police presence.
The size of yesterday’s march would mean that only the 2003 protest against the Iraq war, which some estimates have put at as high as 1.5 million people, was definitively larger.
Organisers said the exact number was impossible to calculate but had used “flow and fill rates and crowd density monitoring” to calculate its approximate size. The Metropolitan Police said they would not be offering crowd-size figures, but at one point issued a statement saying that the crowd was so dense that marchers might not even be able to reach Whitehall, let alone parliament.
From the outset the numbers seemed to match predictions of a vast turnout, with many marchers saying that they were kept stationary at Hyde Park Corner, close to the march’s starting point, and “severe bottlenecks” reported by the People’s Vote along Piccadilly.
The march organisers are also asking people to sign a letter to Boris Johnson, EU leaders, MPs and MEPs, asking them to allow “the chance to check whether we want to proceed with Brexit.”