Parliament suspension: Thousands protest across the UK

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Media captionCrowds fill Whitehall in central London to protest against Boris Johnson’s plans to suspend Parliament

Demonstrations are taking place across the UK against Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament in the run-up to Brexit.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in cities including Manchester, Leeds, York and Belfast.

In London, Whitehall has been brought to a standstill, with demonstrators chanting “Boris Johnson, shame on you”.

A small group of counter-protesters, marching in support of the prime minister, also arrived in Westminster.

Mr Johnson’s plan to prorogue Parliament prompted an angry backlash from MPs and opponents of a no-deal Brexit when he announced it on Wednesday.

When Parliament is suspended, no debates and votes are held. This is different to “dissolving” Parliament – where all MPs give up their seats to campaign in a general election.

If this prorogation happens as expected, it will see Parliament closed for 23 working days.

Critics view the length and timing of the prorogation – coming just weeks before the Brexit deadline on 31 October – as controversial.

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Thousands registered their interest in the protests – including in Manchester – on social media

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In Whitehall, protesters gathered to hear from speakers including Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott

Protests were planned in more than 30 towns and cities, including Edinburgh, Belfast, Cambridge, Exeter, Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham.

In Oxford, crowds holding banners gathered outside Balliol College, where Mr Johnson studied at university.

Named “Stop the Coup”, the protests are organised by anti-Brexit campaign group Another Europe is Possible.

The group also said there were protests planned in Amsterdam, Berlin and the Latvian capital Riga.

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Many of the protests – like the one in York – began at 11:00 BST, while others started at midday

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In Nottingham, campaigners gathered in the city centre

Journalist and activist Owen Jones, who will speak at the London protest, said: “This is about defending democracy.

“We have an unelected prime minister shutting down the elected representatives of the British public who are supposed to be scrutinising the biggest upheaval since the end of the war.

“I think people who voted Remain or Leave should take to the streets today – no one voted for a no-deal Brexit.

“There will be Remainers [at the protests] but I’ve had Leavers get in touch with me and tell me they will be marching, too.”

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By late morning at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, small crowds had gathered – one of three protests abroad

Chancellor Sajid Javid, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, defended the prime minister’s decision to suspend Parliament.

He said: “It’s quite usual this time of year for Parliament to go in to a recess. It’s perfectly correct and appropriate to prorogue Parliament.

“I think it’s absolutely right that this prime minister and his government get the chance to set up their agenda.”

UK divided over what democracy means

It’s a far cry from the millions that we saw marching through Westminster earlier this year. I think we’d probably measure this one in the low thousands [in central London].

But there are deeply-held passions here, different kinds of passions. Some are here because they don’t like Boris Johnson’s government, some because they are worried about proroguing Parliament, some because they don’t want no deal, some because they don’t want Brexit at all.

What is also worth thinking about is the people who aren’t here. Because just as passionate as the views are here, there is another group who feel equally passionate about the fact that we should be leaving, [who believe] that is the democratic way.

There’s been a lot of talk about democracy from the people I’ve spoken to here today, but actually I think what it comes down to is a country which is driven by very different definitions about what democracy actually means.

The Jo Cox Foundation, which was set up in the wake of the Labour MP’s murder in 2016, warned that anger over Brexit “should not spill over into something more dangerous”.

Meanwhile, a petition against the prime minister’s plan to suspend Parliament has received more than a million signatures.

And on Friday, former Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major announced he will join forces with anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller to oppose the decision to suspend Parliament in the courts.

He believes Mr Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament is aimed at preventing MPs from opposing a no-deal Brexit.

The prime minister has dismissed suggestions that suspending Parliament is motivated by a desire to force through a no deal, calling them “completely untrue”.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The idea this is some kind of constitutional outrage is nonsense.”

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