Where there is room for many voices there is room for hope
London, 13th July 2018
People began snaking in from the adjacent streets to Portland Place from the early afternoon, to gather in front of the BBC building for 2pm - the meeting point for the anti-Trump demonstration. They came from all corners of the UK, many from around the world. There were banners from Manchester, Leeds, Cornwall, Cardiff, Bristol, Cambridgeshire and the North, South, East and West of London. Around me, there were English accents and American ones too. There were different words spoken in a multitude of beautiful languages - in Spanish, French, Arabic, Dutch, Hebrew, and even though they were alien words to me, I could hear the passion and the anger within them. There was only one foreigner not welcome here in London today.
There was music - loud, bassy, reverberating music - that travelled through the floor and entered people’s veins. It carried us forward, it united us even closer than the cause that brought everyone here in the first place. Iconic songs that transcended countries and language barriers made people feel powerful. People danced as they marched, and other people banged drums and blasted whistles and blew loudly into trumpets. Trumpets against Trump! one banner read.
I had only intended to stop by for half an hour or so, to show my support and then go home, but the electricity in the air and the infectious energy meant that I couldn’t leave. I quickly realised that you can’t just ‘pop in’ to a protest. There was a buzz, a purpose, a sense of unity across the capital that sucked me in, and on I marched with the rest of them from Portland Place down to Trafalgar Square, joining in with the cheers and the chants and flying the flag for justice.
The crowds were driven by the energy of youth and the wisdom of experience. There were old people, young people, teenagers and students. There were parents with young children and babies strapped to their backs or in prams; the voices of the future, the ones whom all of this was for. People with disabilities and abled bodied people protested side by side. There were no divisions, no hierarchies, no privileges here. There were white people, brown people, British people, migrants, straight people, gay people, men, women and trans people. There were Christians, Muslims and Jews and various religious leaders, coming together with a common message and a shared vision. Whether people came in groups, in pairs or alone, when they heard the voices of many and felt the fire in people’s bellies, they knew that there was strength in numbers. We realised that though she – Britain - be little, she be fierce.
The placards being carried and held up over shoulders displayed individual motives for being there. Some protested against the use of emergency oil sources, against the use of coal, against nuclear war, against detained migrant children, for women’s rights, Muslim rights, human rights and LGBT+ rights. For Palestine, for Mexico, for Syria, for refugees, for freedom without borders, for climate change and for the planet.
Later, Trump would say that he used to love London, but the protests and the giant baby blimp, and the 250,000 people rallying in Trafalgar Square made him feel unwelcome.
And while the response to that would be a resounding nod of satisfaction, the protest wasn’t about Trump as a person. It wasn’t about him as a personality, and it wasn’t about his ego. It was about everything he represents. If he was not the leader of the free world, the most influential nation on the planet, if he did not have the backing and the power and the status to put his money where his potty mouth is, we would not have gathered here in the hundreds of thousands to tell him to go home. He would be welcome to his quiet, intolerant opinions if he didn’t have an audience of billions listening.
He might not be our president, but when he carries with him agendas filled with spite and bigotry and destruction, it affects us all, as a nation and as human beings. And just like we tell children in the school playground to stand up to injustices, to defend those people who cannot defend themselves, to be the voice for those who cannot speak, to not be a passive witness to the actions of bullies, that’s what we were doing as we marched through the streets of London. We were letting him, and others, know that we will not roll out the red carpet for hate.
We hope he heard us loud and clear: Mr President, you and your bigotry are not welcome here.