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Protesters gather outside Parliament after PM’s move to suspend it

At Westminster, crowds blocked traffic and some staged a sit-down protest in Parliament Square, while others headed for Downing Street.

Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By Abbianca Makoni and Jess Glass, PA

Thousands of people have protested against plans to suspend Parliament in rallies in London, Edinburgh and other cities within hours of Boris Johnson announcing the plan.

At Westminster, crowds blocked traffic and some staged a sit-down protest in Parliament Square chanting “stop the coup” while others headed for Downing Street.

There were also impromptu demonstrations planned in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, Bristol, Cambridge and Durham after the Queen approved an order that will see Parliament suspended for more than a month.

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Diane Abbott addresses protesters outside the Houses of Parliament (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told protesters outside Parliament: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t exactly matter where you stand on Brexit, it matters where you stand on Tory prime ministers closing Parliament because they don’t want to give people a say.

“If this was a Latin American country it would be called a coup, complete with American president publicly backing it. We have to stop this coup, not just for Parliament but for this country’s future and for our children’s future.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the protesters: “The message is simple, whatever side you’re on in the debate around Brexit, the message is absolutely simple here, we’re supposed to be a democracy, and that democracy is meant to be a parliamentary democracy.

“They have taken away the decision. We think the decision that Boris Johnson is frightened of is Parliament itself taking control of the agenda next week and they’re not allowing us the opportunity.

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Kayden, 11, waves an EU flag and Union Jack in front of a line of police officers outside Downing Street (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“By closing Parliament down, it effectively closes democracy down in this country.”

He began by telling demonstrators similar protests were under way in Manchester, with protesters using umbrellas as a nod to the demonstrations in Hong Kong.

“It is not too much to ask simply to allow Parliament to sit, debate and vote. I warn Boris Johnson this – you’ve unleashed a force which you do not understand. From that elite sense of entitlement, you do not understand the power of the people.”

Two people carrying a “Brexit Now” banner were grappled as they passed the entrance into Parliament, prompting police to intervene.

Simon Hindmarsh, 47, a carpenter from West Yorkshire, was carrying one end of the large banner amid jeers and boos from the surrounding protesters.

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Protesters stop traffic outside the Houses of Parliament (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “We’re leaving an undemocratic society so we can actually be a democratic one.”

Mr Hindmarsh added they expected a hostile reception at the event.

“For the last 40 years, the EU has been the biggest scapegoat. I’m a leftie, we’re not all Tommy Robinson supporters. I’m not just a thick racist northerner.”

A large group of people blocked the roads around Westminster for hours as the protests continued into the evening.

At least 200 sat outside Parliament shouting “You shut down the Parliament, we shut down the streets.”

Other chants included “No-one voted for Boris” and “He’s worse than Theresa”.

Traffic began to reverse out from the blocked roads shortly before 9pm, and police tried to persuade them to move on, but many did refused to leave.

Caitlin Palmer O’Shaughnessy,  19, a  student from Stoke Newington, east London, said: “It’s completely undemocratic and it’s a constitutional outrage for Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament as its making the biggest decision of our lifetimes.

“We’re going to stay here for as long as we need to, until we see change.

“It’s the most outrageous thing to happen with Brexit over the last few years, it’s unconstitutional.

“The last time this happened they executed the king.”

PA

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