The UK Protests Are Against Trump, Not Against “America”

A rally in London against Donald Trump's "Muslim Ban", January 2017 (BBC)

“The man is the focus here. These protests are to uphold the presidency and American values against him.”


Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura writes for The New York Times, with a contribution from EA:


In London, a giant orange balloon depicting him as a baby having a tantrum will float over Parliament. There will be a “wall of sound” featuring mariachi music and the cries of children in detention centers calling out for their parents. In Scotland, a newspaper has demanded that he leave, and a “Carnival of Resistance” involving throwing rubber boots at a Trump doll is being planned.

Protesters across Britain are playing a cat-and-mouse game with President Trump as he embarks on a four-day visit to the country, following talks in Brussels with NATO allies and ahead of a meeting in Finland with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Campaign groups have organized a packed schedule reflecting an angry national mood, one reminiscent of protests against the Iraq War more than a decade ago. But those protests were aimed at American foreign policy more than at the person of former President George W. Bush.

This time, demonstrations will be against the man himself.

Mr. Trump has generated “the greatest amount of unease and tension against a single individual as opposed to an administration”, said Scott Lucas, a professor of US and international relations at the University of Birmingham.

In Britain, Trump’s ban on travel to the United States from several primarily Muslim countries and his remarks blaming “many sides” for far-right violence in Charlottesville, Va., helped create a groundswell of opposition. So did his sharing of anti-Muslim videos made by a British far-right group.

Just last month, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, urged Prime Minister Theresa May to cancel the presidential visit. A petition last year to prevent Mr. Trump meeting Queen Elizabeth, on the grounds that an official state visit would “cause embarrassment to Her Majesty,” gathered more than a million signatures.

“The man is the focus here,” said Professor Lucas. The protests, he said, would be less about the office of the presidency, than “really, to uphold the presidency and American values against him.”

Mr. Trump is expected to largely avoid London, which has the potential to host the largest protests, and will not visit Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, or Parliament. Demonstrations will take place in several cities across the country, including Cardiff in Wales and Glasgow in Scotland.

On Thursday evening, as the president dines at Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace, near Oxford, protesters will be waiting for him at the gates.

Later, he will face what organizers describe as a “wall of sound” blasted from loudspeakers in front of Winfield House, the American ambassador’s official residence in London, where he is expected to stay overnight.

The following morning, protesters will be waiting for him, again, in front of Chequers, the country house outside London where he is expected to meet Mrs. May for breakfast. Later in the day, tens of thousands are expected to gather at Trafalgar Square at the heart of London.

But Mr. Trump is due to meet the queen at Windsor Castle, which is regarded as more sheltered than Buckingham Palace.

“We want to show our opposition to Donald Trump and everything that he represents,” said Shabbir Lakha, an organizer for Together Against Trump, an umbrella group for protest organizations.

Various “blocks” representing groups and minorities targeted by the president are expected to show up, Mr. Lakha said, including trade unions, environmental campaigners, organizations representing Latin Americans, Muslims and asylum seekers, and even a group opposing Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Police expect more than 100,000 demonstrators. Mr. Lakha said he hoped the nationwide demonstration on Friday would be one of the biggest weekday protests the country has ever seen.

“The police have largely approved the protests, but it took a lot of negotiating and they’ve been quite obstructive,” Mr. Lakha said. “But because of the huge number of expected people, they’ve been forced to back off to some extent.”

In Scotland, rallies will be held in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and outside the Trump Turnberry, the luxury golf resort where the president is expected to spend much of the weekend. In Edinburgh, a “Carnival of Resistance” will feature “Toss the Wellie at Trump”, presumably a game that involves throwing Wellington boots at a Trump figurine. (Scottish summers are generally wet.)

Last weekend, The Sunday Mail, a Scottish tabloid, published a headline that read “Send him home to think again”, a play on a Scottish anthem. Mr. Trump’s mother was born in Scotland.

“We have a great respect for the office of the president and affection for American presidents, but not the incumbent,” said Gordon Robertson, a news editor at The Daily Record, which publishes The Sunday Mail.

Mr. Robertson said Mr. Trump was “a threat to international stability, and he has a tenuous relationship with the truth”, adding, “We want to let him know that we don’t appreciate what he stands for.”

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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