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“Theresa the Appeaser”

Thousands march across the U.K. in protest at Trump's refugee ban

Thousands march across the U.K. in protest at Trump’s refugee ban

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of British cities Monday night to voice their opposition to Donald Trump’s travel ban and to protest U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s weak response to it.

Demonstrations took place in cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Newcastle, and Manchester, as people braved the rain to show solidarity with those affected by the U.S. president’s executive order, which was signed Friday.

In London, where the crowd was estimated to number at least 10,000, demonstrators gathered outside the prime minister’s Downing Street residence, filling Whitehall and spreading out around the Cenotaph – a famous war memorial built after the end of World War I.

Surrounded by the grand old buildings that house the British government, the people came to register their opposition to the most divisive ruling the Trump administration has conjured up so far and to the role that many feel their own government is playing in legitimizing and normalizing Trump’s actions.

The mood was calm but serious on a night when more than one placard and more than one chant referred to Trump as a “fascist,” and “Theresa the Appeaser” was daubed on a host of signs. The references were hard to ignore – just hours before the march on Downing Street, one Labour party MP compared May to Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister famous for appeasing Adolf Hitler just before war broke out.

Speakers from a broad cross-section of British political life – from mainstream politicians to Muslim activists — were scheduled to speak, but for most, the crowd’s chants made their words were inaudible. Diane Abbott, a key ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said that Islamophobia and scapegoating of Muslims needed to be resisted. “We have got to resist it whether it is in the United States or here in the U.K.,” she added. MP Clive Lewis repeatedly flashed the thumbs-up sign as he walked through the crowd.

Two chants held sway: “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” which recalled the massive march held in London in 2015 to show solidarity with refugees. The other focused on Trump: “You can’t build the wall, your hands are too small,” which, for a short while, morphed into the more earthy: “You can’t build the wall, your cock’s too small.”

Walking through the crowd, activist Bianca Jagger told VICE News why she was there: “I care about others. It’s what I do.” 

All across the U.K. the protests remained peaceful. In London, Westminster police tweeted pictures of the scene under the caption “Protesters in Whitehall against Donald Trump’s immigration policy. Being policed with no issues.”

Coming just over a week after the women’s marches that took place across the country, this protest marked an escalation in U.K. resistance to a president whose actions have now had a very real impact on people all over the world. From the chants to the banners on display, it was clear that those in the crowd wished their government would adopt some of that resistance too.

 

Cover: Ik Aldama/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

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