It was an energising and affirming day in the company of many tens of thousands of like-minded people. For those of us who have been campaigning hard to stop Brexit, it was a deeply validating experience.
Bath for Europe was truly a force to be reckoned with at the #PeoplesVoteMarch in London on #StopBrexitSaturday, 23 June. We brought four coach-loads of supporters from Bath and the surrounding areas to the capital. A number of our supporters made their own way to the march. In total, we attracted over 200 people to this epic march. Our group encompassed families, children, students, seniors and all ages in between. Some of us are march veterans, while for others it was a first. The coaches were stocked with merchandise, including our iconic Bath Berets (over 200 of which were sold on the day!) and Bath for Europe t-shirts, banners and placards. Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, one of the founding members of Bath for Europe, travelled to London with us.
The coaches departed Bog Island at 8:30 am and after a pickup on London Road we were on our way. We ran into Devon for Europe supporters at our break at motorway services! Once we got to London, we joined the massive throng and made our way from Pall Mall. The mood was positive and exhilarating, peaceful but emphatic: marchers demanded a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal. The event organisers were expecting 100,000 marchers; Metropolitan Police officers on the ground indicated there may have been up to 500,000 people participating. Marchers came from all over the country and for the EU27.
The huge crowd was dotted with thousands of creative, serious and humorous placards. Marchers brandished flags and banners and sported t-shirts, wigs and costumes. There was a tremendous sense of camaraderie and solidarity. Helicopters flew overhead. The Met Police were a calm presence in the crowd.
The People’s Vote campaign is a cross-party initiative demanding that the public have their say on the final Brexit deal that the government brings back from Brussels. Recent polls indicate that 48% of the public support the idea of a people’s vote, compared to 25% who don’t. The Survation poll also demonstrates that one in three people who voted Leave support the idea. Bath for Europe supports the People’s Vote campaign and has made it the focus of our outreach activities this summer.
The good-natured crowd proceeded down Whitehall and past Downing Street to Parliament Square where a rally was held. The crowd heard rousing speeches from politicians from across the political spectrum: Caroline Lucas (Greens), David Lammy (Labour), Vince Cable (LibDems), Anna Soubry (Tories) alongside prominent and grassroots activists including Gina Miller. Comedian Andy Parsons acted as MC. Popular actor Tony Robinson spoke passionately. Femi Oluwole and Lara Spirit represented “Our Future, Our Choice”, the youth-oriented pro-EU campaign. Erasmus students and activists from the Continent were also represented.
Bath for Europe’s Chair, Claire Thomas, also appeared on stage at the rally. She reported later, “It’s been a fantastic day and amazing to see so many people gathered to support this campaign. The recent warning from Airbus, where on a local level, 3,000 jobs at Filton are at risk, is just one example of the negative impact of Brexit. People are understandably worried and want to have the final say on their future.”
Wera Hobhouse MP was proud to march with many of her constituents. “It was a tremendously uplifting day for all of us who are determined to keep the UK at the heart of the European Union,” she said. “More and more people are recognising that Brexit would damage our economy, our society and our country. I support the People’s Vote because the people must finish what the people started.”
It was only when our group walked to our coaches that some of us encountered hostility from a small group of pro-Brexit protesters.
The march garnered considerable media coverage which was one of its aims: in The Independent, the BBC, The Express and The Mirror to name just a few.
Bath for Europe is grateful to everyone who joined us on this momentous occasion. Special thanks to our excellent events team who managed transport and logistics for the day, our team who made and sold Bath Berets and other merchandise, our ace photographers Mick Yates, Matthew Perks, Clive Dellard and more and all of those who donated so generously on the coaches homewards to Bath. Together we are making a difference!