Thousands of protesters have condemned Boris Johnson for taking an "undemocratic" decision to suspend Parliament. But he has defended his actions, saying he needed a clean slate to prioritize "our domestic agenda."
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across the United Kingdom on Saturday to protest British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament ahead of the current October 31 Brexit deadline.
Protesters chanted slogans such as "Boris Johnson, shame on you" and "Liar Johnson," and carried placards that read "Defend democracy: resist the Parliament shutdown."
"The decision about what happens to Brexit shouldn't be a matter of what Boris Johnson decides," said a 71-year-old protester in London's Westminster district. "He's taken the decision away from Parliament, which is undemocratic."
Read more: Proroguing Parliament: What does it mean?
From Brighton to Glasgow
London wasn't the only city hit by large protests. Demonstrations were organized in Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and York, among others. Larger cities, also more likely to have voted more in favor of remain in the 2016 referendum, were the focus of the demonstrations. In Scotland, people also gathered in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen to condemn the prorogation of Parliament.
Darren Jones, opposition Labour MP for Bristol, shared a video showing hundreds of protesters chanting against the UK's Conservative prime minister.
Trying to 'stop the coup'
Earlier this week, Johnson announced his decision to prorogue Parliament, effectively suspending the lower house until October 14, when a new parliamentary session would take place.
Queen Elizabeth II, who nominally has the power to accept or decline the request from the prime minister but who is typically highly reticent to directly intervene in domestic politics, backed it. It would have been an extraordinary move had she rejected the request, and could well have toppled the government or led to elections.
Johnson said he made the request in order to establish a clean slate for his legislative priorities. But critics said the move amounted to a "coup" at a time when Parliament should be involved in the wider Brexit debate. Lawmakers have lodged legal challenges in British courts.
Read more: Opinion: Boris Johnson, the UK dictator
Race against time
The British government said it would begin meeting with EU negotiators bi-weekly in a bid to secure a deal before the October 31 deadline. However, talks have been held up by the Irish border question. Johnson has called for the EU to remove the so-called backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement or face Britain's departure from the bloc without a deal.
EU officials, on the other hand, have warned that measures must be in place to ensure a hard border isn't necessary between EU member state Ireland and the UK's Northern Ireland.
ls/msh (AFP, dpa)