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American President Donald Trump has a lot to take back home from Londoners than to what he had come to say in the UK during his first official visit. Potus left unhappy and angry. He even said that he felt unwelcome because of the protest against him. During the trip preparation, Trump and his staff were asked to avoid facing London’s protesting crowd. And, he did that. He did not come to London, and avoided road convoy, wherever possible. Despite the non-presence of the Potus in London, the London crowd gathered and protested with vigor on July 13 in the Parliament Square Garden, the lawn opposite to the British Parliament with statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Millicent Fawcett (British Feminist icon and women’s suffrage advocate). I happened to be in London and joined the protest. Young, old, children, mothers began collecting since the morning, and by the noon the crowd included students, shopkeepers, workers, Londoners, immigrants, tourists. Nobody had expected that over two lakh people would gather to protest peacefully at various prominent sites in London, including the iconic Trafalgar Square. I was seeing such a large crowd of protestors for the first time in London and Europe; the other time I saw a huge crowd of protestors were the anti-Nazi protests in a small university town, Göttingen in Germany, where I did my doctoral studies.

In the center was flying a giant balloon of Trump depicting him as an angry baby in a diaper. It was an unprecedented form of protest and meant to humiliate the visiting country head for his policies and worldview.

Angry Trump Balloon, Parliament Square Garden Photographed by the author

The fact that London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan did not only give permission for the protest to happen and the giant balloon to fly above Westminster but also cleared London streets for protestors says a lot about his democratic political vision. In return, Trump went on to accuse Sadiq of being an inefficient leader, unable to stop terror attacks in London. Further, in his interview to the Sun, the popular tabloid newspaper, Trump reinforced his right-wing extremist views and said that the immigration to Europe is a shame and migrants from the Middle East and Africa are destroying the British and European culture. In his speech and speeches of many other far-right wing leaders, the trope of a pure culture (American/British/European/Indian) is combined with a constant creation of the global and the national ‘other’—Muslims. But people who marched to the protest were arguing precisely against the new norms being produced by the far-right leaders. The imaginative protestors presented many images of Trump. He was presented as sexist, racist, child-snatcher, Islamophobic. Some of my favorite placards were:

Protestors combined the immediate message of not welcoming Trump in the UK with larger concerns that the world and people have been drawn into. These included worsening environment and climate change, stricter immigration policies, nuclear and non-nuclear wars, targeting and the harassment of minority groups, sexual assaults against women. Trump seems to combine all these issues in his narrow worldview. While some people were protesting against his policies of separating and caging children from the migrant families, and others brought Anti-Trump sentiment together with issues specific to the UK such as generating jobs, creating a strong health infrastructure, and the Brexit.

People whom I met told me that they can’t sit silently while fascism rises again. A British expat from Thailand who planned his visit to the UK to join the protest told that he is surprised by the silence of people against extreme conservativism that world is witnessing, and more so of American people who are eager to re-elect Trump. He held a placard saying ‘This is the Carnival of Resistance’. Now compare the spirit of protestors with 800 Indian-Americans who organized a march (under the banner of the Republican Hindu Coalition) outside the Whitehouse in February 2018 to support Trump’s merit-based immigration policies. Anxious to secure American citizenship, the group members said to contribute financially in building the wall between the US and Mexican border (https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/indian-american-group-marches-in-support-of-trumps-immigration-policy/article22650866.ece). The placards read: “Trump loves Hindus”, and “Trump bringing Ram Rajya”. Now and then news comes of a Hindu (Krish Raju, https://www.facebook.com/krish.raju.9231) worshipping Trump as God giving competition to American Trump supporters. Can a person who espouses for a pure White culture and hates migrant and migrant-culture to the extent of separating children from families treat the dreaming ‘Hindus’ as equal beings? There is a lot to learn from the Dump-Trump protest, both in terms of a state allowing free speech and us creating an inclusive and compassionate global politics.

Arun Kumar, Historian, Postdoctoral Fellow in Colonial History, Linnaeus University Sweden
(All the photographs used in the essay were taken by the author.)

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