Tens of thousands gathered outside Downing Street yesterday to protest US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration and refugees and the invitation of a state visit to Britain.
“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here” and “Theresa May shame on you” were chants heard as crowds began filling the street between Whitehall and Trafalgar Square cordoned off by police.
Protests took place all over the United Kingdom, including cities like Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Leeds to protest Trump’s executive signing of the ban and to condemn Prime Minister Theresa May’s lacklustre attempts at questioning Trump’s latest executive orders.
“We’re gathered here today to see how much unity we have in London,” one protester told MEMO. “I am so happy to see how many people have come and have shown their emotions and shown their support for this really catastrophic time in history.”
Speakers at the demonstration included Labour peer Shami Chakrabati and MP Diane Abbott who were barely audible above the shouting crowds. “Donald Trump has been president for only a few days, and look at what he is doing,” Abbot said. “We need to resist the Islamophobia and scapegoating of Muslims; we have got to resist it whether it is in the United States or here in the UK.”
Political commentator and journalist Owen Jones organised the protest named “Emergency demo against Trump’s #MuslimBan and UK complicity” on social media the day before it was held. The call to rally quickly gained momentum with over 30,000 expressing interest in joining the protest.
“Today we say with defiance and determination we will not stay silent at injustice, we will stand and make our voices clear,” Jones told the crowd, tens of thousands-strong. “Our Prime Minister…is the stooge of the most despised…president in the history of the United States. She didn’t just fail to speak out in solidarity of Muslims across the world, she failed to speak out and defend her own people.”
May’s visit to the Oval Office last week, and what has been described as her overly friendly manner with the President, drew heavy criticism with people blasting her actions as akin to complicity in the immigration ban affecting refugees coming from Muslim-majority countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. May was also questioned over her inability to call out Trump’s recent comments on the use of torture in its counterterrorism operations during her visit.
A petition against Trump’s state visit to Britain, which May has said will go ahead, has reached nearly two million signatures.
“I feel it is important for me to be here today to show my support with my fellow Muslims,” a Muslim protester, directly affected by the travel ban, told MEMO. “My family have lived in America all their lives [and] have Green Cards but because they are from Libya they can’t get back in. It’s absolutely atrocious how one man can take the livelihood of so many people.”
The protests in London are part of a large protest movement currently sweeping the United States. Crowds gathered at JFK Airport in New York City as well as in other airports in Dallas, Texas and San Francisco over the weekend as news emerged that people from the banned countries were being detained by border security forces attempting to implement Trump’s executive orders.
Green Card holders and dual-nationals, which will also affect Britons, were also affected and detained at airports for long durations. Immigration lawyers were seen working tirelessly pro-bono to release those being held with many successes.
“If something like this is happening and our government isn’t going to stand up against this, it’s up to us to say that we’re not going to put up with it and we’re not going to sit back and just let this happen without it going unnoticed,” one protester outside Downing Street explained.
A Hungarian, who moved to the UK three years ago, chipped in saying it was important to be present at the protest because “if I don’t stand up for it, who will stand up for me?”
The hashtags #MuslimBan, #RefugeesWelcome and #NoBanNoWall began trending online as users shared images, videos and stories from the protests globally. Celebrities have also been vocal against the ban showing their support online and on public platforms along with state leaders like Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refugees to set up home in Canada.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
However, Trudeau’s words were dealt a blow when a mosque was targeted in Quebec by a right-wing terrorist, radicalised by Trump and France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen, on Sunday killing six people and injuring dozens in what Trudeau decried as a “terrorist attack”.
Please read my statement on tonight’s terrorist attack in Quebec City: https://t.co/58NRcOAUmB
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 30, 2017
“We do not want Trump here, he is racist and against Muslims…he shouldn’t be where he is,” one protester explained to MEMO after being asked why she was protesting.
“I was very upset that our PM Theresa May went over there [America]…and she wasn’t able to speak out about [the travel ban],” another explained.
Those who have blasted the “un-American” ban include figures with questionable records themselves; former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright took to Twitter to state that she would register as Muslim in response to Trump’s proposed Muslim registry. Her attempts were quickly dismissed as disingenuous for previously stating in 1997 that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to US sanctions was “worth it”.
I was raised Catholic, became Episcopalian & found out later my family was Jewish. I stand ready to register as Muslim in #solidarity.
— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) January 25, 2017
One of the founders of accommodation rental site, Airbnb, Brian Chesky, also tweeted his support against the travel ban, stating that accommodation on the site would be available for refugees free of charge. However Airbnb has previously come under fire for permitting accommodation in illegal Israeli settlements to be advertised on its site.
Airbnb is providing free housing to refugees and anyone not allowed in the US. Stayed tuned for more, contact me if urgent need for housing
— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) January 29, 2017
“What’s happening in America is atrocious,” one protester told MEMO. “We can’t sit idly by and do nothing. If taking to the streets is the only thing we can do, then that’s what we’ve got to do.”