Anger at Donald Trump’s assault on Muslims, migrants, women and others burst onto the streets of Britain last Saturday.
Some 40,000 people marched through London—and thousands more joined protests in other towns and cities.
Maria, one of many first-time protesters in London, said, “I came to a demonstration for the first time because of racism.
“It feels like we’re going back to the dark ages, with all that we’ve won being undone.
“But if we all stand together, we can change things.”
Protesters weren’t just angry at Trump’s bigotry—they were furious about Theresa May’s support for him.
Hannah, a school student and first-time protester, said, “I’m here because I don’t want this for my generation. Theresa May is just as bad as Trump, she’s just less obvious about it.”
The same was true on the 3,000-strong demonstration in Manchester. Janet, a student from Wigan, near Manchester, said, “If we don’t say or do anything history has a way of repeating itself.
“Eleven years ago my family came to England as refugees from South Sudan. If England hadn’t let us in I don’t know what would have happened.”
A large number of Muslims turned out for the London demonstration, including a whole weekend Arabic school from Waltham Forest in north east London.
Sayed, one of the adults, said, “We wanted to teach them what they could do to stop this racist agenda.
“It’s important they know that we as Muslims, Jews, Christians and socialists are united against Trump.”
There was a big turnout from Yemenis in Sheffield, where around 1,500 people demonstrated.
Young Asian women led chants of, “From Palestine to Mexico—racist walls have got to go.”
School students in Scarborough took the megaphone to shout, “All for one, one for all—we don’t want your stupid wall.”
Chants of, “Dump Trump” also rang through Leeds and Birmingham as some 500 people marched in both cities.
At least 1,000 people marched to the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. Compared to previous demonstrations against Trump, there was a bigger turnout from the trade unions. Unison, UCU and NUT branches brought banners to the London march.
Saturday showed the potential to resist racism—it must be built on.
As Ihtesham, a Labour and Friends of Al Aqsa member, said, “If everyone goes back and talks to ten people about coming on the next one, next time we’ll be ten times bigger, then a hundred times.”
- Saturday 18 February: Stand Up To Trump national organising summit. Called by Stop the War Coalition, Stand Up To Racism, The People’s Assembly, Muslim Association of Britain, Unite and CWU unions. bit.ly/2kER0CX
- Monday 20 FebruarY: Stand Up To Trump. Lobby as MPs discuss the petition against Trump’s state visit. bit.ly/2lffTl7
- Saturday 18 March: National demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff called by Stand Up To Racism on UN anti-racism day. bit.ly/2laQUni
‘We organised in Otley and empowered the anti-racists’
Victoria Smith, who is part of the local group, explained how it started around the refugee crisis. “We wanted to do something that would help people feel empathy towards refugees,” she told Socialist Worker.
The group sewed little birds, each with individual messages, to send to children in refugee camps.
“We’ve just had pictures back from the camp and people could recognise the birds they’d made, which really helped people connect,” she said.
Out of this came Otley Welcome.
Victoria said, “This is the first thing I’ve organised. We saw the protests and said, we can organise something and it’s just snowballed from there.
“Stand Up To Racism Leeds was really helpful.”
Victoria explained how organising a demonstration gave people confidence to put forward anti-racist arguments.
“People who are against Trump and racism in Otley needed to feel empowered,” she said.
“Otley is a very white town and can be quite polarised on opinions around immigration.
“We have a history of welcoming in Otley but the erosion of the working class has really hit—fear of the other, scapegoating and Islamophobia are visible.
“It’s important to get out onto the streets—we are the majority.”
‘This is only the beginning of a mass movement’
Organisers of Saturday’s protest plan to shut down London if Trump comes to Britain on an official visit.
Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism told the London rally, “If Donald Trump comes to this country we’re going to kick his arse. Black and white, gay and straight, women and men, we’re going to kick his arse.”
Lindsey German from Stop the War said, “This is only the beginning. If Theresa May dares to go ahead with the state visit we will bring London to a standstill.
“This is the beginning of a mass movement against Trump’s presidency and Theresa May’s rotten politics.”
Azad Ali from Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) said, “We have to be united—this is not a time for petty squabbles. Our collective action makes a difference. We have a long battle ahead.
“When I was a young boy, I couldn’t go to the sweet shop because there were fascists in the streets. You know who stood up? You all stood up.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a video message. He said, “I support the demand of millions of people in Britain who say Donald Trump is not welcome.
“Trump’s invite should be withdrawn.”
Corbyn should join future demonstrations against Trump and be part of this rising movement against the right and racism.
The left should unite, not fight each other
After Saturday’s demonstration we need to build further unity in action.
That doesn’t mean an end to debate or the creation of just one group. It means campaigns against Trump must work together.
Saturday’s protest was organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), the Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain, Muslim Engagement and Development, the Muslim Council of Britain, CND, Friends of Al-Aqsa, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and Help Refugees Worldwide.
But journalist and author Owen Jones, having previously attacked Stop the War, said he wouldn’t join it.
He claimed SUTR is a “front” for the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and that the SWP is guilty of actions that places it beyond participation in the movement.
The SWP is proud to build SUTR. But SUTR is not controlled by the SWP. Its president is Diane Abbott MP. Its co-chairs are CWU union leader Dave Ward and Talha Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Jones’ false claims about the SWP are a rehash of ones he made last October in an attempt to stop Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the SUTR conference. Corbyn spoke anyway.
In the London Evening Standard newspaper last week Jones said he’d “find it hard to vote for Corbyn” in a new leadership election.
Those on the left should unite against the right, not fight each other.
May’s new pal not welcome
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was greeted with protests as he visited London on Monday.
Up to 300 people joined a Palestine Solidarity Campaign protest outside Downing Street as Netanyahu held talks with Theresa May on closer trade relations and the building of Israel’s settlements.
The Israeli state announced plans to build 6,000 settler homes inside illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu was also set to visit US president Donald Trump this week.
Given this support, the Israeli state retroactively legalised thousands of settlements on Tuesday.
May has cosied up to Israel as part of her attempts to align herself with Trump.
Student Naris Elkair was on the protest. She told Socialist Worker, “The way Theresa May has responded to Trump and Netanyahu is shameful.”