Protesters bid to ‘stop the coup’ in Belfast demo against Parliament suspension

Anti-Brexit activists gathered outside City Hall in Belfast to protest against the suspension of Parliament.

Dozens of demonstrators chanted “stop the coup” while several activists addressed the crowd, condemning Boris Johnson’s move.

The diverse gathering included foreign nationals concerned about their status post-Brexit, and local people angered that the prorogation of Parliament comes at a time when the Stormont Assembly has been suspended for over two-and-a-half years.

The event lasted a number of hours, with organisers urging demonstrators to stay as long as they could and spread word of the protest on social media.

There was a low-key police presence, with officers monitoring the peaceful gathering.

Brenda Gough, from west Belfast, was one of those who had promoted the event.

“My concern is we are supposed to live in a democracy, whether you voted Remain or Leave,” she said.

“We no longer have democracy because elected representatives of the people of the UK have been told they will no longer be able to speak for their electorate.

“A lot of people don’t seem to understand that politicians work for us, they are there to represent our voices, and we understand what it is like not to have that in Northern Ireland because obviously Stormont has been shut down for two-and-a-half years.

“This isn’t about whether you Leave or whether you Remain, this is about the fact that this man [Boris Johnson] has told elected representatives that they can no longer do their job on behalf of the people who have elected them.

“The fact that democracy has now been removed from our society is exceptionally sinister.”

Susie Burlace, an English woman who has lived in Northern Ireland for six years, drew inspiration from Oscar Wilde with a placard stating: “To lose one government is a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness – or a coup.”

Susie Burlace
Susie Burlace was among protesters outside Belfast City Hall (David Young/PA)

She said: “Normally I stay out of Northern Irish politics for fairly obvious reasons, I don’t feel I have the right to a say on a lot of it, but this is far more than Northern Ireland.

“The whole country is now without a parliamentary voice. We have been here for quite a long time and to have two governments now suspended at a critical time in history is anti-democratic and I just feel we should do something about that.”

Brigitte Anton, who is originally from Frankfurt but who has lived in Belfast for 31 years, said the need to apply for settled status had turned her world “upside down”.

She said: “We have lived here as equal citizens as everyone else and now we have been pushed into this second class status and that’s really, really scary.”

She drew parallels between the suspension of Parliament and Nazi Germany.

“As a German I feel like I am living my grandparents’ history because I find this really, really undemocratic, that this can just happen like that and nobody can do anything against it,” she said.

“This is a big con. It’s nothing to do with the Queen’s Speech. It is to prevent discussion about Brexit taking place properly.

Brigitte Anton
Brigitte Anton drew parallels to Nazi Germany (David Young/PA)

“I don’t know what the Prime Minister is playing at but he is playing a very, very dangerous game – specifically here in Northern Ireland because the situation is volatile.

“It’s got completely out of hand. You are watching this and you feel like you are in a bad movie.”

Londoner Rob Stead said he and his wife Jan had “fled” England to move to Northern Ireland because they were so dismayed by the Brexit vote.

“I am very exercised by what’s going on in Parliament,” he said.

“I grew up as a middle class guy in England and identity was never a challenge to me.

“What I have realised since the Brexit vote is actually I feel very European.”

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