Burn him! Johnson effigy jeered at bonfire celebration

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An effigy of Boris Johnson holding an axe and Theresa May’s severed head was met with jeers and calls for him to be burned during bonfire celebrations.

The tableau dragged through the narrow streets of Lewes depicted the former foreign secretary with his stomach protruding from his shirt and a cat with the face of Jacob Rees-Mogg pawing at his knee.

An effigy of Boris Johnson with Theresa May's head
An effigy of Boris Johnson with Theresa May’s head (Gareth Fuller/PA)

As the giant model went past, there were boos and people shouted out “burn him”.

This is the second time in a week an effigy of “blundering” Mr Johnson has featured in bonfire celebrations. A guy designed to look like him was also burned at Edenbridge in Kent on Saturday.

Police were heckled for removing participants from the parade who had been throwing firecrackers, but there were huge cheers for a group of women dressed as suffragettes.

Dubbed the UK’s bonfire capital, the town’s seven bonfire societies are known for producing controversial tableaus of public figures which are paraded by torchlight before being set on fire.

Politics featured heavily in this year’s choice of characters with a third guy appearing to show Mrs May driving a red Brexit bus off a cliff as Mr Rees-Mogg sits behind.

Participants parade through the town of Lewes
Participants parade through the town of Lewes (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Members of Lewes Borough Bonfire Society – which created the design – hit out at the company for limiting the train service during the event.

The town was among those on the south coast hit by major disruption during the long-running union dispute over working conditions and during the recent timetable overhaul.

The town has earned a global reputation for its riotous Bonfire Night celebrations and for producing controversial effigies which have in the past sparked criminal inquiries.

Others who previously appeared in tableau form include David Cameron, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Jeremy Clarkson and Sepp Blatter.

In 2014 police investigated after complaints were made over an effigy of ex-Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, but prosecutors ruled no criminal offence had taken place.

The event has also faced criticism for allowing participants to “black-up” while in character.

This year a Zulu dance troupe which regularly attends reportedly pulled out in protest over claims that a bonfire society went back on its agreement to ban the practice.

The society apologised and said it was a “a significant error of judgment”, according to the BBC, although some locals argued it was a tradition that dated back years.

Some members of other visiting societies were still seen wearing blackface paint as part of costumes during the parade.

The event not only marks the tale of Guy Fawkes and the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot on November 5 1605, but also commemorates the burning of 17 Protestant martyrs in the town’s High Street in the 16th century.

To mark their demise, 17 burning crosses are carried through the town, and a wreath-laying ceremony takes place at the war memorial.

A flaming tar barrel is also thrown into the nearby River Ouse, said to symbolise the throwing of magistrates into the water after they read the riot act to bonfire boys in 1847.

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