Anti-Trump protests must reject his politics, not just his personality

Anti-Trump protests must reject his politics, not just his personality
Comment: Protests around Trump's visit must speak out against racism and injustice in all its forms, in the US and the UK alike, writes Malia Bouattia.
6 min read
06 Jul, 2018
During the four-day trip, Trump will spend very little time in London [AFP]
Friday 13th it seems, is indeed a cursed day. Next week, the UK will have the great misfortune of receiving US president Donald Trump on his official visit. 

Theresa May has proceeded with hosting Trump, despite the recent international outcry against his latest anti-migrant policy, which led to the forceful separation of almost 2,000 children from the hands of their parents at the Mexico-US border, and their effective imprisonment in cages.

But anti-Trump protests have been taking place across the country since his election. The Muslim ban provoked vibrant demonstrations, and the coalitions that have been established between trade unions, civil liberties groups, educators, students and public figures, as well as vocal opposition within parliament, are likely to make his visit a somewhat thorny point in Britain's political life.

In fact, in the face of this opposition, May's decision to go ahead with the visit sends a clear message on her and her government's behalf: Despite all his abominable policies, they continue to stand by him and the US-UK 'special relationship'.

In fact, so determined is the government to the visit, that they have already committed £5 million in extra policing costs to facilitate it, demonstrating once more that there is always money to be found to fund political decisions that are prioritised by the government.

This visit was in fact due to take place last year but was postponed over the Trump's fears that he would not be welcomed by the British public, and rightly so.

In the UK also, we should be clear about the continuities between policies at home and abroad

London Mayor Sadiq Khan had also made his feelings clear when he called for the whole thing to be cancelled, stating, "I don't think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the US in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for."

The Stop Trump coalition called on the UK government to revoke to invitation, "in recognition of the fact that the normalisation of Trumpism is wrong and destructive. In recognition of the fact that the vast majority of people in this country are against Trump and the politics of hate and division he encompasses. In recognition of the fact that we, as a society, value humanity and family and the safety of children, here and throughout the world."

As the date approaches, and despite a growing opposition, it's clear that this time, he has not been dissuaded, which has only motivated the people to fight even harder.

A national demonstration has been called on the 13th, with thousands expected to assemble at 2pm with a rally at the BBC building in Portland Place, finishing with speeches at Trafalgar Square.

There are also protests planned in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Blackpool, Swansea, Cardiff and other cities across the UK. A nationwide 
Carnival of Resistance has also been organised for 12th-14th of July.

Sheffield's new Lord Mayor, Magid Magid, citing Trump's racism, attacks on climate change policy, and his anti-Palestinian foreign policy, has banned Trump from the city, and called on people to join and organise demonstrations against his visit.

Going a step further, he highlighted Theresa May's role in facilitating the visit and thereby normalising the politics he stands for.

Read more: 
British-Somali Muslim mayor bans 'wasteman' Trump from visiting his city

Similarly, Labour's Shaista Aziz and Asad Rahman of the Stop Trump Coalition, explained that the demonstrations should be used to "to build a loud, intersectional anti-racism and pro-migrants rights movement in the UK that will not shy away from naming fascists for what they are, and will not whitewash the politics of hate, racism and misogyny". 

Their call is a timely one.

Indeed, as with much of the focus on Trump, our movement would be remiss if we allowed these mobilisations and our political discussions to remain focussed on him rather than on the politics he represents.

In the United States, activists have pointed out, for example, that the notion of the Muslim ban was in fact introduced by the Obama administration. In addition, the Obama years saw the largest numbers of deportations ever in the history of the USA, while drone strikes, anti-terror laws, and institutionalised racism in the legal system continued unabated.

If the politics of Trumpism represent anything, it is the rapid acceleration of existing political logics, and their bold-faced defense by an administration with open links to the far right.

In the UK also, we should be clear about the continuities between policies at home and abroad.

It's critical that we make it a day that rejects the current direction of travel of politics in the UK and across much of Europe and the world

Theresa May built a wall in Calais alongside her French counterparts to keep migrants out and, as then Home Secretary, presided over the wrongful deportation of thousands of international students, members of the Windrush Generation, and countless migrants.

In the UK too, migrants are treated like criminals and incarcerated in effective prisons like Yarls Wood, before being sent back to a potentially deadly context in their home countries. Muslims are criminalised in the UK through the Prevent Agenda, and Schedule 7 which allows stops and interrogations at borders, and racist police.

Finally, just like in the US, the normalisation of Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic policies has facilitated the growth of far right and fascist movements.

The recent terrifying sight of tens of thousands of demonstrators calling for the release of former EDL leader "Tommy Robinson", was a stark reminder that our politicians' populist policies have also led to the emboldening of street movements that target those who are already most vulnerable in our societies.

Friday 13th July must not therefore, not become a march simply about Trump and the rejection of his policies.

Without undermining the importance of international solidarity, it is critical that we make it a day that rejects the current direction of travel of politics in the UK and across much of Europe and the world.

It should become a march against racism in all its forms that puts forward the vision of a real, solid, and powerful internationalism from below.

In fact, in light of the growing normalisation of border control policies and a crass Britain-first type approach, it is more important than ever to remind the world that the working class is made up of many racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds; that it is anti-racist and internationalist.

This working class stands by the quote, uttered by Lilla Watson, the Indigenous activist, who famously summarised the meaning of solidarity, when she told activists:

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

Without internationalism, without anti-racism, without a principled and uncompromising rejection of all forms of bigotry, hate, and nationalism, our liberation efforts are condemned to failure.

That is the message that we should take to the streets next Friday, and that is the message that should direct our struggle in the months and years ahead.

Malia Bouattia is an activist, a former president of the National Union of Students, and co-founder of the Students not Suspects/Educators not Informants Network.

Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.