When did you first attend the SODEM protest outside Parliament and why did you come?
I first went to SODEM in October 2018, drawn to it by mention through NE4EU, who I first started campaigning with about Europe, and was then met on the day by Pedro. It was a beautifully sunny day with a riot of colourful flags, and a near-riot of opposing sides: pro-Europeans, and pro-Brexiters, who ranged from those interested in debate, to complete scum interested only in screaming ‘TRAITORS!’ in your face.
Roughly how old are you?
I’m 46 now (in 2021).
How frequently did you come and when was the last time you attended?
When I moved down from the north-east in mid-2019 to start my new job, I quickly started to come to SODEM every day after work, and as the crew grew with its wealth of regulars, Londoners coming frequently, the further-flung making the efforts when possible, it could be real fun.
How far from Westminster do you live and what was your travelling time?
I was in New Malden at the time, about 50 minutes total door-to-door, now in Tooting, 40 minutes-ish.
What’s your favourite memory?
Favourite memories: one evening towards midnight on the barricade in February 2019, in my hoody, jacket, scarf, many flags and illuminated signs still up, and talking with this guy Bryn from Wales about what we’d do if we ultimately lost, how to prepare. Then some film-maker came along and we had a good chat to camera with them. It was all so extraordinary. Another time telling Richard Tice where to go when he tried to touch my shoulder in a matey way. Gyrating with Steven’s yellow hammers outside the Cabinet Office. The day of Rees-Mogg’s rogue proroguement: outside the Cabinet Office, later afternoon, Jeff the Clown was there among half-a-dozen others, and he said ‘today of all days you’d think people would get angry …’ – but then they did! Droves of irate Londoners coming from college and work, one group with a hamper sat down to picnic on Whitehall and so a spontaneous roadblock formed. ‘Bloody marvellous’, Jeff said.
Tell me your story
I was shocked by the 2016 result, but thought ‘Ok, Norway, um, if you like’, but by mid-2017 I began to get very uneasy with the noises coming from Rees-Mogg and hitherto non-entities like Francois, and depressed by the wall of hate of newspapers when going to the shops, the bullshit jingoistic drift on the radio, the sense of fear that Brexit wasn’t up for debate.
For that and other reasons I decamped to Berlin, in part to bridge-build (‘we’re not all fucking nutters!’) but also possibly settle, get German citizenship. But I was increasingly nagged by watching the UK’s political scene deteriorate, the viciousness and debasement of the discourse into barbs about traitors, patriotism, ‘enemies of the people’. And I realised, at the time my home country was suffering a wholly destructive far-right coup, I’d left without a fight, and I couldn’t live with that. So I came back to the UK, and seeing what Brexitometers kept saying, I joined NE4EU.
For a long time I never thought we’d win. Billionaires don’t spend millions deploying weapons-grade psy-ops and hiring thugs to beat up protesters, murder MPs, just to be foiled by simple grass-roots people-power. But, but but … by late summer 2019, people were hitting the streets, blocking Whitehall, the argument was turning, Brexiters were vocally giving up, the Johnson Government was imploding under the weight of its grotesque incompetence and inherent contradictions. We were *that* close.
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