Why I, an Immigrant, Joined the People’s March Against Brexit
Saturday was one of the best days of my life. I guess that sounds extreme, but it was one of those days that start with no expectations and leave you smiling so much it hurts.
My friend and former colleague, Mark, and I met near London’s Hyde Park to join the People’s March, which is calling for a new referendum on Brexit. It took us forever to find each other because an estimated 700,000 people turned up to say it’s better for the U.K., the E.U., and the rest of the world if the U.K. remains in the European Union (need a reminder of what the E.U. is? read this).
The sun gods blessed us with a perfect day that felt more like a family-friendly party than wild protest. And yet the energy was there and kept building as we wound through the heart of London on our way toward Parliament.
Brilliant and classically British homemade signs and colorful flags punched the air. I saw women wearing T-shirts that said everything from, “I am quite cross,” to “pulling out never works.” Posh older gentlemen waved to us from their tony balconies. Cheers rippled through the crowd, as did “Bollocks to Brexit!” chants. A song developed behind us to the tune of She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain: “You can shove your Tory Brexit up your ass! You can shove your Tory Brexit up your ass! You can shove your Tory Brexit, you can shove your Tory Brexit, you can shove your Tory Brexit up your ass!” And then a band started playing.
By the time we reached Trafalgar Square, the street leading to Parliament was so packed with people we could go no farther. By chance, we’d landed next to a man selling beer who’d carted over a giant speaker behind his bike. As he blasted his music, we all spontaneously started to dance and sing. We were conveniently located next to a Tesco market, which was amazingly well stocked with alcohol. The peaceful party rolled on and we stayed there drinking wine and Peroni until the stereo man wheeled away.
Personally, I don’t want Brexit to happen because, as an E.U. citizen, I would like to remain living and working here without any complications or fears of getting kicked out. I also believe in the core tenets of the European Union: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, and human rights. When expats on my podcast talk about identifying with the values of their adopted European countries, this is what they’re talking about. And in a world seemingly run by cartoon villains happy to destroy democracy and the Earth, a strong and unified Europe that fights for these values is essential.
“But hang on,” some argue, “the people have already voted for Brexit so you have to follow through on it.” What I love about Saturday’s protest is that hundreds of thousands of people marched to say, “We made a mistake. We have better information now on the financial and political harm that could happen to us if we go through with Brexit, and it’s not too late to stop this.” It’s not a dictatorship if it’s the people demanding that their politicians act with sense instead of pushing through the ruin of their country simply because they’ve already got the ball rolling.
At the protest, I saw a kid holding a sign saying, “My ideas can evolve, why can’t Parliament’s?” Whatever happens with Brexit, it felt amazing standing should-to-shoulder — then dancing — with our fellow protesters, knowing that we are not alone. That we don’t have to hopelessly shrug our shoulders at the ridiculous whims and foolish policies of our politicians. That we have a voice.
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