Brexit protesters harass politicians and journalists as tensions rise over deal deadline
Brexit is symbolic of a divided nation and so it’s hardly surprising that a group of MPs has now gone to police at Scotland Yard expressing concern over an increase of verbal and written abuse.
It was sparked after Conservative MP Anna Soubry was abused by nearby protesters during a live television interview outside the Parliament.
“Soubry, Nazi,” they chanted.
“This is what has happened to our country,” the Conservative MP noted while still on air with the BBC. A sobering assessment of the decline in public discourse.
I experienced harassment at a pro-Brexit rally that I was covering for ABC TV late last year. A male participant tried to intimidate me while I was doing my job. It was unpleasant, uncomfortable and unacceptable.
Policing Brexit protesters is proving to be a challenge for the service. (ABC News: Tim Stevens)
For Ms Soubry, once she was off air the protesters followed her back to her Westminster office.
“Scum, scum, scum,” they chanted as she walked in, leaving them behind.
One of the men was also filmed yelling at police.
“You want a war? I’ll give you a war!” he shouted, “You want it? It’s on!”
Protesters have become a fixture outside the Houses of Parliament since the Brexit referendum, but until now have been largely harmless.
Post-Christmas the numbers have been growing.
A new pro-Brexit group, wearing yellow vests in a sort of homage to the protesters in Paris, have now joined the gathering.
Pro-Europe activist Owen Jones was also followed as he made his way to the BBC for an interview.
Tweet from Owen Jones: Just met some lovely Tommy Robinson fans and I’d love for you to get to know them too
“You are a disgrace,” he was told repeatedly as he filmed on his phone and with police in tow.
“They appeared from nowhere and as you can see started haranguing, yelling,” Mr Jones told Sky News.
More than 60 MPs moved quickly to express their concern over the “deteriorating public order and security situation” in and around the exterior of the Parliament, demanding Scotland Yard investigate.
Reports suggest there has been an increase in verbal and written abuse on social media sites.
“It is frankly intolerable if members of parliament and journalists go about their business in fear this situation cannot stand,” declared the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.
The Speaker said the approach of police to observe but not intervene was no longer tolerable.
The Metropolitan Police responded declaring an investigation into whether any laws had been broken and increasing the number of officers outside the Parliament at Westminster.
Some politicians have gone to police, concerned after being harassed by protesters. (ABC News: Tim Stevens)
As the Brexit deadline looms — it’s now less than three months to go — the tensions will only increase.
Debate on the Brexit deal will begin on Wednesday afternoon London time with the vote due next Tuesday. The discontent is palpable on all sides.
Before Christmas lip readers confirmed the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, had called Prime Minister Theresa May a “stupid woman”.
He denied it, saying he was referring to the “stupid people” on the Government benches.
Metropolitan Police will be watching closely. Scotland Yard even has its own Brexit commissioner.
“I think it’s really important to recognise that policing Brexit is a really challenging issue for the police service,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said.
“We know that it is a contentious issue with opposing views from a number of people.”