Union Jack flags and ‘traitor MP’ placards were held aloft as thousands of Brexit protestors marched on parliament on yet another day of high drama.
Extra Met Police officers were drafted in to guard Westminster perimeter after the March to Leave procession, from Fulham to Parliament Square, arrived early on Friday afternoon.
Anger and frustration became palpable as large crowds gathered at Whitehall chanting “MPs out” and “leave means leave”, while inside, the Commons rejected Theresa May’s withdrawal deal for a third time.
Hi-vis vests, parade bands and ‘bully Bercow’ could be seen as protestors chanted that this day, Friday March 29, was the day the UK should be leaving the EU.
Loud boos across Parliament Square as the face of prominent remainer London Mayor Sadiq Khan was broadcast on a screen while crowds rallied around two stages to hear speeches.
Joanne Anderson from Portsmouth was sitting on a barrier with her friends outside Parliament. She told HuffPost they had travelled to London because they were “so angry” about the way Brexit has been handled.
“Today we were supposed to leave and as far as we were concerned we are leaving,” she said. “I’m sick of hearing that people have changed their mind or that people didn’t know what they were voting for.”
She said the atmosphere had been great. “People from all over the country have come down. They have been so nice and so polite. I don’t know if there has been any trouble, I haven’t seen anything.”
Despite the high tensions and massive police presence, the protest remained largely peaceful with only small offshoots of the march becoming rowdy and burning EU flags.
Brexit figurehead Nigel Farage was among those to give a speech on the Vote Leave stage at Parliament Square.
As flares went up, he told crowds: “Frankly, I believe that what’s happened over there, has not just turned this day that should’ve been one of great celebration into a day that history will mark as a day of great betrayal, I believe that what’s happened over the course of two years is actually one of the saddest and worst chapters in the history of our nation.”
Addressing whether there would be a second referendum, he said “we will beat them by a bigger majority”.
To chants of “Nigel, Nigel, Nigel”, Farage said if Britain does not leave without a deal on 12 April he fight the 23 May European elections.
He added: “And if the worst case scenario occurs, if they force us to fight a second referendum, we will beat them by a bigger margin than last time.”
In the crowd was Jim Kirby, from Leicestershire. He said the demonstration was against all the MPs because they can’t make a decision about coming out of the European Union properly.
“It feels that the MPs of the country can’t be bothered with the leavers and are only interested in the ones who want to stay,” he said.
Kirby thinks the protest will turn ugly later in the evening when people have drunk more.
“It could end up being violent. I had a text from someone that Mr Robinson is coming down with his friends so anything could happen.”
Campaigners at one point converged on the road stopping a pro-Remain van.
They chanted things like “Brexit now” and “Bye bye EU” as the traffic piled up to a standstill.
The mob then pointed and shouted “shame on you” at the van.
Meanwhile, as the sun began to set, far right campaigner Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, addressed a crowd on Whitehall as cries of ”Oh Tommy Robinson” rang out.
He told the throngs of flag-waving individuals: “Theresa May, are you listening, John Bercow are you listening?”
He began: “So Theresa May has lost her vote. Many people will be asking what does that even mean?
“It means we were betrayed. Today is supposed to be our Independence Day.”
The crowd were then shown a documentary made by Robinson on a 50-foot screen.
Ukip leader Gerard Batten, meanwhile, said: “What we do know is that if we do not leave the EU it will mark the end of democracy in the UK.”
Tim Martin, founder of the JD Wetherspoon pub chain, meanwhile, told pro-Brexit campaigners in Parliament Square: “Anything you can buy from Europe you can buy from the rest of the world.”
“Replace French brandy with Aussie brandy. Replace champagne with English sparkling wine,” he said.
As he left the stage, to Land Of Hope and Glory being blasted out around Whitehall, those watching heartily sang along and waved their flags in time to the music.
Conservative MP Henry Smith tweeted images of demonstrators on Whitehall and in Parliament Square, writing: “This spring evening should’ve been Brexit day, but MPs have failed to deliver the democratic referendum result.
“We need leadership, and Parliament should now be prorogued. People here outside the House of Commons, Whitehall and across our country must have their votes respected.”
MPs also shared their experience of marchers.
Labour MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy, said on Twitter she was “accosted” outside Parliament before the vote.
SNP justice and home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry QC said she was “relieved” to leave Westminster following a day of protests..