Some time in June, a group of young web developers and graphic designers met at a London pub to discuss political protest ideas over a few drinks. U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s first presidential visit to the UK had been confirmed in late April (Evening Standard). The group wanted to brainstorm how best to protest his arrival.
They had been at other anti-Trump protests since his election in November 2016, and noticed the eclectic and original signs and placards people brought onto the streets. As the pub meeting carried over into a sun-kissed weekend, the group started building a website for artists to upload protest images and designs that could then be easily shared, downloaded, and printed.
“There’s a huge amount of creativity that goes into some of the posters people make,” Philippa Bywater, a 26-year-old web developer, web designer, and one of DonaldIsComing.com creators, told WikiTribune. “We really wanted to set up a platform to allow people to share those, and really just collect as much as we could.”
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Bywater and her group are a fraction of the tens of thousands who are expected to take to London’s streets on July 13 to protest Trump’s arrival to the country the day before, according to figures on the event’s Facebook page. Dozens of anti-Trump demonstrations are also expected throughout major British cities. Organizers hope the protest will be a “carnival of resistance,” bringing together a coalition of groups and activities, including a six-meter tall inflatable Trump baby that will float over the UK Parliament (CNN) at Westminster.
The strong reaction to Trump’s visit underscores the increasingly frazzled nature of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the UK, as well as between America and its traditional liberal allies (The Economist). The president will be arriving from a two-day NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, after having strongly criticized allies for failing to meet their NATO defense spending quotas. He will leave the UK for a summit in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Trump isn’t representative of the values of the country,” said Anastasia Palikeras, a student activist and associate of Owen Jones, a left-wing British journalist who has helped organize the Stop Trump protests. “The protest will show how many people care about boycotting Trump’s politics.”
The “Together Against Trump” rally is being organized by two groups, Stop Trump Coalition (STC) and Stand Up to Trump, which together represent various organizations and interests. A spokesperson for STC said: “People want to send a message to everyone fighting against this politics of hate, we all stand united together, and we not allow the clock to be turned back to the darkest moments of human history.” In February 2017, over 100 individuals and organizations wrote an open letter (The Guardian) to the UK government to protest its decision to invite Trump over for a state visit.
A “Women’s March” against Trump will start from central London on Friday around 11am, while a separate procession is due to begin at 2pm.
Hundreds of pro-Trump supporters are also expected to make an appearance in the British capital. Separately, one pub even changed its name to The Trump Arms in honor of the president’s visit (The Independent).
London’s Metropolitan Police told WikiTribune: “We are anticipating people to gather in the capital to demonstrate both for and against the president. The requirements of this complex operation need to be balanced with the right of individuals to a freedom of speech.”
A ‘carnival of resistance’
Organizers say that the scale and diverse set of expected participants in this week’s protest highlights another, less visible aspect of Trump’s presidency. “If there is a saving grace to Donald Trump, it is that he has managed to do what many of us have tried to do for many, many years, which is to recognize that the issues that we fight around and we struggle against are symptoms of a deeper, broken system: an economic system,” said Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want, a London-based anti-poverty charity that is helping to organize the protests.
Rehman told WikiTribune that Trump’s presidency has helped “create an intersectional movement for justice” in which people who support diverse causes such as migrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and climate justice are starting to see that their interests are better served by working together.
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He added: “I think we’re protesting not the man, but the politics, and it’s the politics that are not just in the United States, they’re on the rise everywhere, and that’s what we’re protesting.”
This view was echoed by Neil Faulkner, a British archaeologist, historian, and political activist. He told WikiTribune: “This movement is important because it is important that we build a massive union of workers, women, black people, brown people, Muslims, ethnic minorities, in order to create a strong alliance to put an end to fascism together and this protest is a small step towards this big cause.”
In a separate statement to WikiTribune, Kerry Abel, chair of Abortion Rights, a UK pro-choice campaign that is also helping organize the protest, said: “We are campaigning against Trump because he made it clear he hates women. From his pussy-grabbing claims and comments that women who have abortions should be ‘punished’ in his campaign, he has doubled down in his policies – first re-enacting the Global Gag Rule to limit international funding where the organization offers sometimes life-saving abortion care and information, and now extending the gag to American domestic family planning funding.”
A special relationship?
British Prime Minister Theresa May first invited Trump for a state visit to the UK in January 2017. But the state visit became a non-starter after a public backlash, including a million people signing a petition against the trip and members of parliament denouncing May’s decision, apparently forced both administrations to postpone the visit.
Trump’s visit was re-announced as a “working visit” on April 26, 2018, but details of his stay in the UK were only confirmed last week. James Robbins, diplomatic correspondent for the BBC, said Trump’s visit would be “the most controversial visit ever made by an American president to Britain”.
The president will arrive on July 12 with Melania Trump, his wife, and attend a black-tie dinner with British Prime Minister Theresa May at Bleinheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. He will then spend the night at the U.S. ambassador’s house in central London. On Friday, July 13, Trump and May will hold bilateral talks at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence in Buckinghamshire, just outside London.
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The Trumps will then travel to Windsor to meet Queen Elizabeth. The pair will next travel to Scotland, where they will spend the weekend.
Traditional headquarters of British politics and government, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, are not on the itinerary. These locations are expected to see the biggest protests (Huffington Post).
Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the UK, confirmed that Trump would eschew a motorcade in favor of using his Marine One helicopter to move around the UK.
War on Want’s Rehman said this is a victory for the Stop Trump coalition: “It has been the strength of opposition of the people in Britain that has prevented [Trump] from visiting twice previously … The fact that they now have to helicopter him in, in secret, to try and avoid all the mass protests that have been taking place across the country I think is a good sign.”
Johnson denied that the president was using a helicopter or spending limited time in London because of the protests.
“The President is not avoiding anything. The president is merely trying to get as impactful a trip as possible within a 24 hour period,” said Johnson (Huffington Post). “This is a short trip its packed with things he has to do. We are in central London, he will be spending a lot of time in central London.”