What a day! Thousands descended on London to support the march
It was a really early start for us – a long way to travel and six pick-up points to negotiate. Our members from Penzance were the first to get underway when they were collected by CfE Chair Howard, at 3.50 am for their onward travel to Victoria to connect with the coach.
Next came Truro where the coach actually collected its first passengers. Many more joined at Victoria, including those who had been collected from Penzance, then departing at 5.15 to move on to Launceston, Okehampton and eventually Tiverton, where our final travelling companions joined us.
It is difficult to describe the palpable sense of excitement and anticipation that existed among the group. Despite the early hour, everyone was buzzing, cheerful and laughing, reconnecting with friends not seen for some time, and looking forward to being on the streets with like-minded people for the first time in three years. Although many of those taking part were seasoned campaigners and marchers, that wasn’t the case for all. Some were taking part in their first march, and what was even more encouraging was the fact that we had some younger people on board. In fact, one young lady was only 12 years old and came equipped with her own, handmade placard.
A short pit-stop for refreshments and a brief get-together with the Devon coach resulted in an enthusiastic flag waving practice. The sun was shining, and spirits were high – next stop Hyde Park.
Sadly, a closure on the M4 caused a detour which resulted in a delayed arrival at our destination near the Royal Albert Hall. Late – but not too late – we armed ourselves with placards, banners and flags before making our way across Hyde Park to the Achilles statue. We weren’t sure what to expect. It had been three years since we last made this trip and at that time, the fight to stop Brexit was still underway. Now, with Brexit supposedly “done”, would there be the support that we hoped for? Could we make enough impact to spark the media into taking notice? We need not have worried!
As the crowds gathered near the statue, waiting to cross Park Lane, the sight that greeted us across the road was breath-taking and people were becoming truly emotional. There were thousands of marchers waiting to start their protest. They filled the pavement, overflowed into the roadway and the police were having to work hard to control the traffic. We had a really uplifting moment as we attempted to cross Park Lane to join the main group. The three lanes of traffic on the park side were not being controlled by the police, and the flow was relentless. One or two people ran the gauntlet between vehicles, but progress was slow until we were leant an unexpected helping hand. A bus that had pulled in to pick up passengers left the curb and, initially, we thought that the driver was going to cause yet another obstacle to our progress. Instead, he pulled his vehicle out into the traffic flow and blocked all three lanes so that we could cross the road. When he saw our delight, demonstrated by the sea of waving hands and raised thumbs, he responded by sounding his horn in support, as did some of the traffic passing in the opposite direction. A perfect encouragement for our efforts.
Once across the road to join the main crowd, the focus was on greeting more friends and other members of CfE – those who had made their own way to the march from many areas of the UK, and even from as far afield as the Netherlands. The gathering included the march organisers and most of those who would be speaking later in Parliament Square. People like Femi Oluwole (who created a speeded up video of the march), Mike Galsworthy, Steve Bray and many others including MEPs Terry Reintke and Guy Verhofstadt, headed up the column and led the crowd through the streets of the capital. The march was underway!
In buoyant mood, with many different chants echoing through the streets, the marchers made their way towards Parliament Square. Flags and banners from all areas of the UK were in evidence. St Piran flags from Cornwall mingled with Saltires from Scotland. The red dragon of Wales was side by side with the EU flags of numerous groups from Devon to Cambridge, Norfolk to Leeds, and many more besides. As we travelled through the streets, they were lined with spectators, some of whom actually decided to join in. The movement is growing! All were focused on the same goal – unity with our EU neighbours. A few other mantras did creep into the chant list, however. We had the usual “what do we want?” but rather than only being answered by “Rejoin”, we also had versions with “general election”, and even “tofu”! The latter was, of course, a reference to the Suella Braverman comment in parliament when she referred to protestors as: “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati, dare I say the anti-growth coalition“. It seemed that everyone was more than happy to embrace Ms Braverman’s categorisation though, even the several lettuces that had joined the march!
Around ninety minutes later, the protestors were filing into Parliament Square and finding their places ready to listen to the speeches. What a treat was in store – from a great line up which included CfE member Nicola Tipton, who read her poem on stage. A list of the speakers is available here, but some of the greatest highlights were the speech from A.C. Grayling, and also those from Guy Verhofstadt and Terry Reintke, the MEPs who have always been in support of the UK being part of the EU. Guy, from Belgium, and Terry, from Germany, both gave rousing, supportive speeches assuring everyone that, as far as they and many other EU member countries are concerned, the door back to the EU is always open for the UK.
It was also really encouraging to hear the speech from Julius Lajtke, the President of the Young European Movement UK. The push for rejoin needs more young people to get behind it for it to succeed, and there is probably more chance of them doing so if they can share this goal with their peers. If you know any young people who might be interested in getting involved, please point them in this direction.
With the speeches over and goodbyes exchanged, it was time for the stroll down the embankment to meet the coach at the pick-up point. The atmosphere was one of quiet satisfaction. A sense of achievement on a job well done for today, and with the knowledge that the will is out there to continue the fight towards rejoin. We need to keep spreading the word, keep encouraging others to join in with the campaign, and keep putting pressure on the UK media to report factually, not just on the Brexit disaster, but also on the desire that exists within so many UK citizens to rejoin the EU.
We left London at around 5.30 pm, with an ETA at the final coach drop off point in Truro of some time shortly after midnight. Those travelling back to Penzance had an even longer day of course, as they were taxied there by Howard before he was able to return home himself. The trip back was uneventful in itself, with most people spending some time scouring their mobile phones for media coverage of the event before eventually trying to catch a nap. Sadly, the reporting response to the day’s events was varied. Some news agencies provided good coverage while others, particularly the BBC, ignored it completely! Links to some of the most notable coverage can be seen below.
Since the march, however, and possibly in part because of the recent upheaval in government, Brexit is now being mentioned more and more often as the cause of many of the UK’s problems. This needs to continue and we need to do all that we can to ensure that it does. If you are not active in the campaign as yet, but would like to be involved, please do get in touch. We are always really pleased to accept more volunteers to our small band of campaigners and admins. Just drop us a line here.