What some believe could be the biggest protest march to ever take place in the UK takes place in London tomorrow (23 March).
The People’s Vote protest comes just days before the UK originally planned to withdraw from the European Union (29 March).
The march is expected to attract many gay, bisexual and trans people. Organizers have arranged for an LGBTI contingent will be walking towards the front of the protest.
Gay Star News has previously produced a report on the impact of Brexit on LGBTI communities – both in the UK and Europe.
It raised serious concerns on how leaving the EU may impact on rights, the supply of medication such as HIV medication and hormones for trans people, and the consequences for LGBTI people in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Why LGBTI people are backing a People’s Vote
An estimated 71% of LGBT people have said they would vote to remain in the EU if a second referendum were to take place. This could be enough to swing the vote from leave to remain if a vote was held again.
Tris Reid-Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Gay Star News and co-chair of LGBT+ for a People’s Vote, said: ‘Nobody voted for Theresa May’s plan. Now we know the true shape of Brexit, most UK citizens want to stay in the EU.
‘But with the country on the brink of a national emergency, the government still refuses to do the right thing and put this decision back to the people. Tomorrow, we challenge that. Hundreds of thousands of us will show on the streets what we’ve already proved in the polls – that most of us prefer staying in the EU.
‘LGBTI people in particular stand to lose so much from Brexit. It’s been used to undermine the legal protections we have on our hard-won rights. And it’s been championed by people who are definitely not our friends – Brexit-backing MPs are far more likely to have opposed LGBTI rights.
‘Our vision is for a stronger UK in a better EU. The quickest way to end this mess is to have a People’s Vote. All other options will still see us talking about Brexit for years to come. Join us on Saturday and help to bring a swift end to this pointless national humiliation.’
Organizers want leavers and remainers to unite
Although the event has been organized by the grassroots People’s Vote campaign, which is supported by a number of pro-Remain groups, organizers hope the march will unite both Brexiters and remainers.
‘It is open to absolutely everybody,’ spokesman Adrian McMenamin tells the Evening Standard. ‘We are not a campaign against Brexit. We are a campaign for a vote on Brexit.
‘At the moment, people who voted on the referendum in 2016 and have now seen what is on offer from the Prime Minister, want to have their say on these options or whether remaining in the EU is a better option.
‘There are people, who still support Leave want a democratic consolidation of the referendum result in 2016.’
Huge turnout expected
The last major People’s Vote march took place in October in London. Organizers estimate it attracted over 700,000 people – making it the biggest protest march since a million people turned out on to the streets to protest UK involvement in military action in Iraq in 2003.
The UK voted by 52% against 48% to leave the European Union in a referendum in 2016. Prime Minister Theresa May set the wheels for departure in motion by serving Article 50 in 2017.
This set the date of 29 March 2019 for the UK to leave the EU. However, with just days to go, May has failed to persuade the UK parliament to back her Brexit deal.
Yesterday, EU negotiators agreed a slight extension of 12 April for May to get her deal through Parliament. However, after being voted down twice, few are confident it will be approved. This makes a no-deal Brexit all the more likely.
More likely, the EU will continue to give extensions while the future of Brexit is undecided. Even if May’s deal is voted through, years of Brexit negotiations with the EU lie ahead.
The EU has, however, indicated it would give the UK time to have a People’s Vote to finally settle the issue.
Tomorrow’s event will start at noon in Hyde Park, before walking to Parliament Square. Speeches will take place from between 2-2.30-4pm.
LGBTI marchers are invited to gather near Bomber Command, on Piccadilly, from around 12.30pm. An LGBTI rally for a People’s Vote will take place at 11am, prior to joining the front of the march.