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Hundreds join London protest against Theresa May and the DUP


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On the 10th June, hundreds gathered at Parliament square to protest the proposed Conservative and DUP coalition. It was a forceful rejection of the DUP’s anti-abortion, anti-LGBT+, and anti-green policies.

The event was titled ‘Down With Tory/DUP Racism and Bigotry’ and was organised by Stand Up To Racism and Stop the War Coalition. Yet there was a jovial atmosphere, with the host announcing at the opening of the event that this was a “victory party” for the left, mocking Theresa May’s failed attempt at winning a majority. With the bright sunshine, music, and dance, there was definitely a happy, party mood, especially with live music performances, which included Tommy Walton’s 'Dear Theresa'.

Much of the celebration was centred on Jeremy Corbyn’s remarkable success, praising his conviction despite the scepticism and lack of support from the media and many of his own party members. The feeling that the “tables have turned”, as one speaker put it, was proudly attributed to Corbyn’s radicalism and offer of true change, alongside his respect for gaining electoral power.

The orignal purpose of protesting the DUP was not forgotten, however, as the host announced that "today we start the protest against the Tories and DUP”. One of the most popular chants of the day was “racist, sexist, anti-gay; not DUP, no way!” The particular concern for women’s rights was underlined by the strong presence of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, with many placards urging the introduction of free, safe, and legal abortions in Northern Ireland, where it is still illegal except for particular medical circumstances.

A great deal of the protest was towards the Conservatives and their lack of power. In an impassioned speech Weyman Bennet, co-founder of Stand Up To Racism, called them the “zombie Tory government”, urging the people to more protest since “the only reason [the Tories] don't know they're dead is because we haven't pushed them over.” In line with other speakers, Bennet also attacked the right-wing media rather than the people who voted Conservative, accusing The Sun of “racist filth”. 

Unsurprisingly, much of the anti-Tory feeling was directed at Theresa May, with Lindsey German from Stop the War coalition encouraging more resistance “to make this city and this country ungovernable for a woman who does not have the support of the majority of the people.”

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity also supported the event, and their speaker John Rees was among many who called for May’s resignation. He spoke well, playing on May’s famous campaign line by reminding her that "exit means exit” and that “if you won't go there yourself, we will push you through the door." He also highlighted the potential for change beyond the election, urging us all “to go outside of the polling booth and onto the streets", which the protest then did.

Moving away from Parliament Square, protestors marched towards Downing Street, then on to Trafalgar Square. Many bemused tourists watched on as the chant of “oh Jeremy Corbyn” to the tune of ‘Seven Nations Army’ filled the street, and with the pride flags, placards, and union banners it was a noisy and colourful spectacle. All of this was accompanied by a large number of police, but there was no violence and the officers were friendly.

The most popular chants called for the ousting of the Conservatives and May in particular, though after speaking to a few people I realised not everyone was entirely unified behind this cause. Some felt that more focus should be on the DUP, since the resignation of May and the subsequent leadership election would only cause unnecessary chaos.

One person I spoke to also felt uncomfortable with the attention on the DUP’s terrorist connections, criticising such an approach for dredging up the past. It also cannot be ignored that the organiser Stand Up To Racism has been seen as a front for the Socialist Workers Party, who certainly had a strong involvement, and have been criticised as rape apologists.

Regardless of the problems with the protest itself, which are inevitable, the overall intention was clear. 52% of the vote in the election went to left-wing, socialist parties and people want to see that represented in parliament, rather than see May team up with the DUP and skew the government further right.

As of yet, the DUP coalition is still going ahead but the opposition to it shows no sign of letting up. This protest was already the second that had happened despite only being one day after the potential DUP coalition was announced, and political activist Owen Jones has organised another for 17th June. The argument that the coalition will bring the necessary stability for Brexit negotiations is not holding up well, as for many it is at the expense of too much.

The election might be over but the fight is not. The shock results are certainly a cause for some celebration amongst the left, but the desperation of a hung parliament poses real dangers to its values. As campaigner Naima Omar said at the event, the election results do not dictate our acceptance or the end of democracy: "we will not be told what to do – we will stand up for what we believe.”

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