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Canadian expatriates gather in London's Trafalgar Square on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2010, to protest against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.
Canadian expatriates gather in London's Trafalgar Square on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2010, to protest against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.

Canadians abroad

London prorogation protest <br/>skips Buckingham, heads for pub Add to ...

Early Saturday, the first rally of the day against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's prorogation of Parliament got started an ocean away from Ottawa amid the opulent art galleries and bizarre street performers of London's Trafalgar Square.

About 20 protesters, most expatriate Canadians now living in Britain, gathered across the street from Canada House - home of the Canadian High Commission in London - holding makeshift placards, Canadian flags painted on pieces of paper and a large sign with the words "one nation against prorogation" written on it. One man had simply scrawled "get back to work" in blue marker on the inside of a torn up paper bag; demonstration supplies were clearly in short supply.

The gathering, one of only a handful of such protests held today outside Canada (another took place in New York), was organized on Facebook by Arlene Decker, 27, a native of Calgary.

"We've come out today to show our solidarity for all the people protesting back home," Ms. Decker said, "and to show that just because we're not in Canada, we're not apathetic to the situation."

After becoming a member of the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, and observing the organization of anti-prorogation protests scheduled across Canada, Ms. Decker felt there might be enough like-minded Canadians living in London to hold a similar rally and spread the word beyond Canada's borders. "I know a lot of English people aren't aware of Canadian politics," she explained.

Although the protesters had to compete for attention with street performers in Trafalgar Square - most notably a bare-chested man standing on an enormous suitcase juggling large knives - they were able to attract some attention from tourists and Londoners meandering by. The majority stopped simply to ask what the word "prorogue" meant.

Send us your prorogation protest pics. What you've sent so far:

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"Why don't they put up an explanation or a picture of something?" remarked one man from Ireland, in London with his wife to see an exhibition of Spanish art at the British National Gallery. He'd found himself frustratingly stumped when his wife had asked him to explain one of the protest signs.

None of the people that stopped to talk with the demonstrators could recall an instance when they'd seen a group of Canadians protesting; however, after receiving a thorough explanation as to what was going on, most felt the demonstration worthwhile, if only for the spread of information.

Ms. Decker had planned for the protest to end with a march from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace -the official residence of the Queen - to demand Governor-General Michaëlle Jean be sacked for agreeing to Mr. Harper's prorogation request. But at the last minute the plan was scuttled when Ms. Decker was informed that demonstrations in front of the Palace had to be scheduled five days in advance, something she had neglected to do.

Instead, after about an hour of standing in the chilly London air, repeatedly explaining what the word prorogue meant to those that stopped to ask, the protesters decided to march to the Maple Leaf in nearby Covent Garden - a pub, known for showing hockey games, having Molson on tap and serving poutine.

Daniel Lametti is a graduate student at McGill University studying in London. Photo by Irina Rozin. Special to The Globe and Mail

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