Thousands attend 'Stop the Coup' protest in Leeds against Boris Johnson's prorogation plans

Thousands of people headed into Leeds city centre to join the 'Stop the Coup' protest against Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans to suspend parliament.

Huge crowds gathered in Cookridge Street on Saturday, August 31 to protest Mr Johnson's plan to end this session of parliament - a process formally known as 'prorogation'.

Under the plans, parliament would recommence just 17 days before the scheduled Brexit date - Thursday, October 31.

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Critics say this leaves little time for MPs to play their democratic part in the Brexit process.

Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West, organised the event after sharing his "disgust" at the PM's "attempt to shut down parliament" on Twitter.

During the protest today he said on Twitter: "The people with only 48 hours notice have gathered in Leeds in their thousands to #DefendOurDemocracy."

He was joined at the protest by Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn, Leeds East MP Richard Burgon and Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, who recently spoke out against "potential tyrants like Johnson and his fanatical gang of Brexiteers" and promised to work hard to prevent the prorogation plans.

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Other speakers included Mary Creagh MP for Wakefield, Naz Shah MP for Bradford West, trade union members and Leeds Labour Councillor for Headingley and Hyde Park, Jonathan Pryor.

People from Leeds and across the region travelled to the protest to make their views on the plans heard.

Jac Trow-Flynn, 32, a charity worker from Bradford who works in Leeds said: "I'm here because I'm concerned for our democracy. Pushing through a no-deal Brexit will put so much harm on our country, put a lot of people at risk and get rid of a lot of laws that the EU brought in to protect us.

"I don't think democracy is being done. I think we are heading into a Boris Johnson dictatorship.

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"I voted remain and I think the leave campaign was illegal and full of lies. I don't think we'd have had a leave vote if the campaigners had been forced to adhere to the truth so I don't think that was a democratic referendum. Realistically, the population was lied to horribly.

"But if we do stick the referendum and we do go for Brexit I think we need to ensure that we have a Brexit which actually works, is legal and protects the people in this country."

Martin Braidley, 24, originally from Leeds but now living in Sheffield, is concerned with how Brexit, in particular a no-deal Brexit, will affect the region.

He said: "The whole suspending of parliament is very scary and it goes against not only British values but democratic values in general.

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"We don't know how Brexit is going to impact Yorkshire and honestly that's the worrying thing. It's been three years of Brexit limbo and I feel like the big stuff hasn't happened yet.

"I'm a university student myself, on a working gap year at the moment, and I have a lot of friends from EU countries like Lithuania, France, Germany and I don't know what's going to happen to them. It's a scary, unknown time."

Helen Payton, a 53-year-old artist and Linson Banks, 51, a dry-stone waller, travelled from near Appletreewick in the Yorkshire Dales to the protest.

Ms Payton said: "We're here today to protect our democracy. We don't like what is happening in parliament at the moment. Boris Johnson is un-elected and he is radically changing civil rights and our human rights as individuals.

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"Today is about democracy not Brexit. I can't believe in 2019 we are having to fight in Britain for democracy. I think it's really frightening.

"I am trying to protect my 15-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter. The future is for them really, we've got to protect it for them."

Mr Banks believes that subscribers to the European Research Group - a Conservative pooled service that focuses on the single issue of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union - is the driving force behind the prorogation plans.

He said: "It seems like the ERG have got control of the Conservative party and are pushing everybody else out and forcing out a hard Brexit, irrelevant of parliament.

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"Proroguing parliament is just stopping anyone who has any opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

"I don't even think it's Boris' plan I think it is the people behind him. I think Boris is a puppet - it's not his plan, he's not bright enough for this.

"Boris Johnson doesn't care about anything - he just wants to be Prime Minister."

Speaking to the crowd, MP Richard Burgon described the prorogation plans as an attack on more than democracy, saying: "This isn't just an attack on democracy, this is an attack on living standards, this is an attack on public services, this is about a disaster capitalism which is going to result in the reshaping of our public services, the privatisation of our national health service and making workers in this country even less secure.

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However, he praised protesters for turning up to today's event and said it is time for "real people power."

"I congratulate you for being part of the fightback. I congratulate you for being part of making history.

"We don't want less democracy, we want more.

"The mask of a rotten system is slipping. We need, not only to get a public vote, not only a general election, in my view we need a socialist government.

"We need a Labour government that will stop no deal but won't just stop at stopping no deal but will actually, with your help as part of a mass movement taking power, will fundamentally and irreversibly shift the balance of power and control in this country in favour of the 99%.

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"Change is coming and when that positive change does come, it won't be the achievements just of members of parliament, it will be the achievements of people like yourselves who turned up at demonstrations like this the width and breadth of the country.

"It will be achievements of millions of people in our country who say 'enough is enough'. It's time for real people power."

Coun Jonathan Pryor spoke on Twitter after the event. He said: "Proud to speak at today’s demonstration against Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament today. This is no longer just about leave or remain, but the subjugation of our democracy. This cannot be accepted as a precedent."

Alex Sobel MP also took to Twitter to thank the people that attended. He said: "I’d like to thank the thousands of people that turned out in Leeds today. To have so many in such a short time to defend our Democracy is uplifting and heartening."

The Leeds 'stop the coup' protest was one of a number of anti-prorogation protests across the country, including London, Nottingham and Sheffield.