More Brexit

It remains difficult to see anything positive coming out of our vote to leave Europe, and it seems to have brought out a number of the worst sides of parts of the British public, with an increase in racist attacks and bullying. Another Europe is Possible hosted a rally opposite Downing St against this climate of fear and hatred after the Brexit vote, calling for an end to scapegoating of migrants and Islamophobia.

Its long seemed irrational to me to allow the free movement of capital but to restrict the movement of people; if the market is a good enough mechanism for one it should be for all, though perhaps we might be better with a certain amount of planning and intervention in both. But certainly we don’t need the kind of draconian measures that the UK currently takes against migrants in general and refugees and asylum seekers in particular. The contribution that migration has made both economically, in maintaining essential services and in broadening our culture during my lifetime has been enormous and a genuinely free press would welcome and praise it – and politicians would then not be able to stir up the kind or racist and xenophobic responses that were behind many of the votes to leave Europe.

I arrived as Anna from Movement for Justice was speaking about the terrible injustice and maltreatment of asylum seekers in our detention prisons such as Yarls Wood, and photographed her framed by MfJ posters; a still image doesn’t tell us what anyone was saying, but the posters make MfJ’s arguments clear.

Of course we can’t ignore the Brexit vote, close though it was, but it is still worth fighting for the kind of Brexit it is going to be, keeping up the pressure on Theresa May (and her possible successors) not to throw out the baby with the bathwater as they currently seem determined to do.

Another of the speakers as Syrian activist Muzna Al-Naib, urging the UK to take action over the atrocities of the Assad regime and to offer real support to the Syrian people and to offer refuge to more than the small handful of Syrian refugees that have already managed to come to the UK –  largely despite the efforts of our government.  Her’s was a message that called for love and for unity of peoples and again a banner on the barrier she was speaking behind seemed appropriate.

The Europe, Free Movement and Migrants protest ended with many of those present leaving to go to the Green Park Brexit Picnic,  and while many marched there, I took the tube. The picnic had been advertised as an opportunity for people to come together and debate the future under Brexit, though the great majority of those attending were obviously still feeling upset and cheated over the result of the vote obtained by an essentially dishonest campaign.

Those at the picnic were splitting up in to small groups to debate various aspects of the future as I arrived , some very small like that above, which seemed to me to be seceding into a small island of Europe in the sea of grass, and others considerably larger, circles with perhaps 20 or 30 or 40 people, and they were getting down to some sensible, organised and at times fairly heated discussions.

One group stood out, Brexit supporters who had come to counter the protest with their own ‘picnic for democracy’ organised by Spiked magazine calling for ‘Article 50’ to be invoked ‘NOW!’ They stood out in several ways, not least the number of empty cans and wine bottles and it was clearly in that respect a rather better party than the rest. I started to photograph them and got sworn at and threatened by one or two people who recognised me from right-wing protests I had photographed, but then they found a new outlet for aggression as the march from Downing St arrived with posters against Brexit and were joined by people wearing t-shirts with the message ‘Spread Love Not Fear’ and calling for ‘Hugs for Immigrants’ rather than hate.

There was some angry name-calling and posturing, but people from both groups came across and tried to calm things down, and stopped what had seemed an inevitable fight from developing.  The shouting had attracted the TV crews covering the event, and there was then a little largely good-natured jostling to get greater coverage from the cameras.

Having taken my pictures, I moved a few yards away and sat down to eat my own rather late sandwich lunch, after which as things seemed to have calmed down I decided to leave to cover another event.


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