Shouts of “fuck Trump” and “refugees welcome” echoed outside Downing Street on Monday evening as thousands of Londoners gathered to protest against US president Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and his suspension of the US refugee programme.
Crowds stretched along Whitehall, reaching as far as Trafalgar Square and the houses of parliament at either end, completely blocking traffic and forcing buses to abandon their routes outside Number 10.
The emergency protest, one of many held around the UK on Monday, followed rallying cries from journalist Owen Jones on social media after the UK’s initially tentative response to Trump’s travel restrictions, which were imposed immediately after prime minister Theresa May visited the White House on Friday.
Late on Sunday, foreign secretary Boris Johnson announced there was an agreement exempting British citizens from the ban, but many protesters objected to the UK’s reluctance to outright condemn Trump’s actions.
“We’ve seen this with Bush and Blair, where the UK has just gone along with whatever America has done, and we all know how that ended, and I don’t want that to happen again,” a protester named Kam, who held a sign that read “people’s lives > your fucking special relationship”, told BuzzFeed News.
“It was a horrible period of time and this will probably be even worse if Trump gets his way,” she added.
Another protester, Abigail, told BuzzFeed News she found the current situation “terrifying” and believed May is “just going to give in” to Trump.
“They want to keep the relationship with America and she’s not going to stand up to
him,” Abigail said. “I don’t think [May’s] representing the British people’s opinion at all.”
Several signs depicted Trump as Hitler and many others read “never again”, referring to the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Jodie Wild, a protester of Jewish heritage, told BuzzFeed News she found the travel ban “completely inhumane”.
“It’s illegal and it makes me sick,” she said. “It’s a second Holocaust, and the whole slogan that goes with that is ‘never again’ and it’s disgusting now to see it happening to a different race of people.”
Wild said it was “refreshing” to see so many people voicing their objection on the streets, but said the government’s response so far has been insufficient.
“They’ve just got no backbone whatsoever,” she said. “It’s really shameful and it makes me really ashamed because they’re evidently not representing the people of England.”
During May’s visit to the US on Friday as the first foreign leader to visit the White House since Trump was inaugurated as president, she announced that the Queen had extended an invitation to Trump for a state visit to Buckingham palace.
Following Trump’s travel ban, there have been calls to cancel the proposed visit, including a parliamentary petition that at the time of writing had been signed by almost 1.4 million people.
Once a petition of this kind reaches more than 100,000 signatures, it must be debated in parliament, and protesters at Monday’s demonstration hoped it would prompt MPs to urge May to cancel Trump’s visit to the UK.
Angela Martin told BuzzFeed News she would aim not to be in the UK at the time of Trump’s visit if it went ahead.
“I’d probably leave the country the week that he’s here so that I’m not here in any way to show any respect, or do anything that might feel like we’re welcoming him,” Martin said.
Another protester, Melody, said: “Hopefully the government will at least get the sense that this isn’t what the British public want. I think the whole thing is completely inhumane. It’s only been a couple of days since he’s [done this] so if we don’t stop him now, when are we going to stop it?”
It seemed clear that if the visit did go ahead, Monday’s demonstration would not be the final time British protesters would take to the streets over Trump. “I think what’s happening today could go really wrong, and we’ve seen things go wrong in history before when people didn’t stand up and protest,” a protester named Ahuv told us.
“If the visit went ahead, we’ll be here again to let him know how we feel about him.”
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