‘A historic moment’: 670,000 march to demand Final Say on Brexit at second biggest demo in a century
‘We were the few, and now we are the many,’ activists told as huge crowds urge Theresa May to change course
The crowds stretched so far back that plenty of people never even made it to the rally.
Masses overflowed through the streets of London for more than a mile, from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square, as an estimated 670,000 protesters took their demand for a fresh Brexit referendum right to Theresa May’s doorstep.
They came from every corner of the UK, in what is believed to be the largest demonstration since the Iraq War march in 2003, when more than a million people turned out in the capital to oppose the conflict.
Amid the swathes of EU flags and banners, there was also a growing sense that campaigners, MPs and activists were realising, perhaps for the first time, that this was a battle that could be won.
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“We were the few, and now we are the many,” Tory MP Anna Soubry told the crowds crammed into Parliament Square.
“We are winning the argument and we are winning the argument most importantly against those who voted Leave.”
She said: “We will not walk away. We will take responsibility and sort out this mess with a people’s vote.”
Speaking to The Independent beforehand, she said many Tory MPs were privately supportive of a second referendum amid bitter divisions in the party.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the sheer scale of the event showed that “confidence is growing” in the fight for a fresh vote.
To huge cheers, London mayor Sadiq Khan said the march marked a “historic moment in our democracy”.
He told protestors: “We’ve heard some complain that a public vote would be undemocratic and unpatriotic. But the opposite is true.
“There’s nothing more democratic – nothing more British – than trusting the people to have the final say on our future.”
MPs from across the political spectrum addressed the rally, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who drew huge cheers when she compared Brexit to a botched operation.
Christian Broughton, editor of The Independent, told the crowds: “Theresa May says that the Final Say referendum will be a politicians’ vote, not a people’s vote, but we can all remember what some politicians told us in 2016.
“We, the people, can all now see what’s really coming. And from where I’m standing it looks like a people’s vote to me.”
He revealed that The Independent’s petition for a Final Say had achieved more than 940,000 signatures, adding: “We have to keep on showing up and signing up.”
People did show up in their thousands for the march, which was extremely cheerful, except for a handful of Ukip protestors who screamed “Losers” at passers-by from outside Downing Street.
An army of students, college pupils and young activists led the march in a sign of the impact of the Brexit vote on the younger generation, some 1.4 million of whom have become eligible to vote since the referendum.
Femi Oluwole, from the youth group Our Future Our Choice, told The Independent: “What we are trying to do is bring people together, as nobody has any confidence in what the government is doing.”
He said young people were going to be hit hardest by Brexit, both economically and in the opportunities to live and work abroad.
Among the crowds was Piero Passet, a 71-year-old restaurant owner from Turin, said he was marching because he was concerned for the future of the younger generation.
He said: “I’ve lived in London for 49 years but I am more concerned about my children and my grandchildren.
“I still have my Italian passport but I don’t want to be stuck at Gatwick airport in long queues.”
Mr Passet said he was already struggling to recruit staff, as many eastern European and Spanish workers no longer felt welcome in the UK.
Ruby Savins, 13, had travelled from Brighton with her parents Nick and Celia.
She said: “I’ve come because of my future. I think Brexit is wrong and I think we should stop it altogether.
“We all think that it is wrong and we think we should remain together.”
Jo Law, 31, and her partner Phuong La, 23, came to protest about how Brexit was creating a toxic atmosphere.
Ms Law, from south London, said: “I’m here because of my girlfriend. Trying to get a visa for her is just impossible.
“It’s all about immigration.”
Corinna Lewis, a 37-year-old German student, had travelled from her home in Canterbury to show her support for a Final Say vote, as she was not eligible to vote during the 2016 referendum.
She said: “I’ve been in England for 10 years but I couldn’t vote. I don’t think that’s fair.
“I think there are lots of people who are absolutely engaged but were excluded from the vote.”
Also among the crowds was Lord Of The Rings actor Andy Serkis, who described it as “one of the most, if not the most important march of a generation”.
Other famous faces included Sir Bob Geldof, TV presenter Richard Bacon, Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, comedian Jenny Eclair and Holby City actors Catherine Russell and Hugh Quarshie.
Ahead of the march, a Downing Street spokeswoman told The Independent that people had a right to speak out, but that the prime minister had made clear her position in regards to a new referendum.
While the protestors gathered, Ms May visited an exhibition in her constituency, entitled Maidenhead And Me, featuring work by local artists.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here