Stop the Coup protest: Sparks fly at pro-democracy rally
PUBLISHED: 19:15 31 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:54 02 September 2019
Scores of pro-EU protestors came together in Ipswich's town centre to show their disdain at Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament today.
During the hour-long gathering on the steps of Ipswich Town Hall, speakers including Ipswich MP Sandy Martin set out their stalls for opposing the proroguing of parliament and demands for a People's Vote.
Signs at the event took aim at a variety of issues, with many calling for a stop to Brexit and others saying that the decision to suspend parliament for longer than usual was undemocratic.
"There are 61 days before we crash out and leave the European Union without a deal," said Mr Martin.
"That is what will happen unless something is done before them. Johnson says he will have a deal of his own but the EU has already made it clear what deal they would accept.
"He can't control what happens to the deal.
"He can't even control what happens in his own party, and he can't even control Dominic Cummings."
Mr Martin's speech came less than a day after reports that Mr Cummings, one of Mr Johnson's most senior political strategists, sacked a special adviser to Sajid Javid without telling him.
The Labour MP told the crowd that his party are in support of a second referendum and a general election, as well as reminding them that his fellow Suffolk MP, the Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock, had previously opposed prorogation to push for a no-deal Brexit and was now staying silent as a cabinet minister.
Warning the crowd, Mr Martin added: "The idea we can have democracy without government is an idea that has been tried in the past.
"Napoleon, Hitler, Mao Zedong - none of these people believed in or understood democracy. We need to maintain democracy in this country and we need to maintain the sovereignty of parliament."
Mr Martin made no direct comparisons between Mr Johnson and the dictators, but also defended his choice of words, saying after his speech: "It's no good mentioning other examples or countries like Turkey where their democracy is currently under threat, those examples don't register with people in the same way.
"We need to get the message across that democracy is under threat in this country."
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The event had been organised with just 36 hours notice, along with other Stop the Coup events held across the country.
Several speakers took to the megaphone, including the Liberal Democrat PPC Julia Ewart and Ipswich Green party member, Jenny Rivett.
Ms Ewart reminded some pro-Brexit attendees that many of the orthopaedic staff at Ipswich Hospital are Portuguese and that a no deal Brexit could leave them unable to work in the UK.
She urged the crowd to write letters in support of those they thought were doing a good job trying to prevent a no deal scenario, and to write to Mr Cummings to tell him they are not in support of prorogation.
Ms Rivett, who had never addressed a crowd as big as today, said: "My family have lived in Germany and France. I've tried to remain very open to people who want to see Brexit, however I do not want to see the end of democracy in my own country."
Tension in the town centre
While it was a generally peaceful gathering, some members of the public passing the scene disagreed with the protest and moments of tension flared up on the edge of the crowd.
While Mr Martin was delivering his speech, an argument regarding nationalism could be heard at the back of the crowd, and a young attendee began swearing at a man in the crowd who was sharing his pro-Brexit opinions.
Sam Murray, a member of the Ipswich Conservatives, turned up in support of the prorogation.
Miss Murray said she was approached three times in the crowd by people looking to debate her pro-Brexit position.
"I thought I would come down to hear what is being said. I've heard the opinions and facts on both sides and I know what I want to see happen.
"This is supposed to be a protest against prorogation but people are here talking about Brexit, about a People's Vote, about a general election - it's not a clear message here.
"I've been lectured by people while I've been standing here, it's been fine mostly but there was one moment when things looked like they were getting a bit tense.
"I didn't agree with Sandy's choice of words - I think we have had three years of being called Nazis since the referendum.
"Things like that will make people who voted leave want to stay at home, it's hard to have a reasonable debate with that kind of language."