UK reader Richard Willmer took the streets last week to protest the suspension of Parliament by prime minister Boris Johnson. In response to my request, he consented to provide a brief word from the street. Thanks to Richard and I wish good things to the defenders of democracy and immigrants.
Defending democracy; defending immigrants
Last week, the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, asked the Queen to prorogue (i.e, suspend) the UK Parliament for five weeks. In accordance with convention, the Queen ‘did as she was told’ and agreed to the suspension. Many are very unhappy about this, seeing it at an attack on our constitutional order, and thus democracy itself. Small-scale public protest got underway immediately, and the first big gathering of protestors took place last Saturday, August 31st.
The last time I attended a large protest rally was in February 2003, in the run-up to the military adventure in Iraq. Last week, it was time for me to get back on the street.
The protest was a peculiarly British affair, with lots of people saying “excuse me” to each other as they sought to find their spot in the crowd, and the chanting was all rather gentle in its way. But the main message from the speakers was clear: democracy is not something that is handed to us ‘on a plate’ by those with power; rather it is something for which ordinary folk must strive and, if necessary, engage in civil disobedience and direct action. One speaker had voted Leave in EU referendum in 2016, but deplored what he saw as the undemocratic manner in which the Government was seeking to carry it out, and the impact that leaving without a deal could have on those who have come from other European countries to live and work in (and contribute to) the UK. Another speaker was the daughter of an immigrant from Franco’s Spain. She told us that her mother had warned her that, if fascism came to England, it would be served with tea and cake and honeyed words, and paternalistic assurances that the removal of our freedoms would be good for us, while those around us who did not ‘fit the bill’ would quietly disappear.
Many political perspectives and agendas were represented; some press reports understandably questioned the coherence of the ‘message’. But, from what I could see, there was certainly one thing that united us all: a desire to defend the rights, and the personal honour, of immigrants, be they from Europe or elsewhere.
At the end of the rally, we were told to “look out for each other”; it reminded me that if one is concerned for one’s own freedom, one should work to defend the freedom of others.