In recent months we have seen a number of protests in the U.S., from the Women’s March on January 21st, to the People’s Climate March on April 29th, and most recently the March for Truth on June 3rd. Some have said these protests accomplish nothing, but I have disagreed, and today I have proof that organized protests DO sometimes make enough waves to bring about change.
In January, just a week after Trump’s inauguration, UK Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to make a state visit to the UK later this year, which he gladly accepted. However, the good citizens of the UK do not want Donald Trump to visit … understandably. Early on, citizens and members of Parliament called for May to rescind her invitation, which she refused to do. In February, a petition circulated and was signed by more than 1.8 million people, calling for Trump to be denied a state visit, saying he is not worthy of the honour. The petition prompted a debate in Westminster Hall, a debate that ended without a vote.
Since then, Trump has done absolutely nothing that would make him more palatable, more welcome to the citizens of the UK. In fact, his announcement that he plans to withdraw from the Paris Accords did nothing to endear him to any other western nation, certainly not the UK, where even Theresa May, who has appeared to cozy up to Trump, was disappointed in his decision. But then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.
A few short hours after the devastating terrorist attack in London on June 3rd, Trump took to his favoured communication tool, his twitting machine, and made false and highly critical claims about London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The Brits, needless to say, were not amused.
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” tweeted Trump. But that was not at all what Mayor Sadiq said … he was telling Londoners not to be alarmed by the extra police presence they would see in the coming days. Trump either did not bother to read what the good mayor said, or deliberately twisted his words. Either way, he stirred outrage against the citizens in the UK and many of us here in the U.S. as well.
The Guardian reported this morning that Trump’s state visit had been “put on hold”. Both Prime Minister May’s office and the White House deny this, though the White House spokesperson hemmed and hawed a bit, saying, according to the New York Times, that there may be other reasons Trump might delay his visit. According to the story, Trump called PM May and indicated that he did not wish to visit if large-scale protests were likely, and that he preferred to wait “until the British public supports him coming.” He will likely have a long wait!
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Twitter that Trump’s decision was “welcome, especially after his attack on London’s mayor & withdrawal from #ParisClimateDeal.”
An editorial yesterday in The Observer, the world’s oldest newspaper, established in 1791, begins …
“Donald Trump is not a fit and proper person to hold the office of president of the United States. That is a view widely held in the US and among America’s European allies, by politicians and diplomats in government and by rank-and-file voters repelled by his gross egoism, narcissism and what Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has rightly termed his “stupefying ignorance”. It is a view we wholeheartedly share and have repeatedly expressed, before and after Trump’s narrow election victory last November.”
Trump has never before shied from contentious rallies and public events, but those were on his home turf, one in which he had ensured there would be enough of his supporters to muzzle the protesters. But in the UK, he likely has few, if any supporters and would literally be hung out to dry.
Guardian Associate Editor Hugh Muir made an interesting point when he said that if any other world leader backed out of a state visit for fear of his image, Trump would tweet, ““RAN from critics. A gift for crooked MSM. TOTAL pathetic loser!” And we know Mr. Muir is right! He can dish it out, but he cannot take it. Muir went on to say that “If he can’t bomb it or tweet against it, the cupboard of responses seems bare.”
As I said, there is some dispute about this conversation, though both sides confirm that there was a phone call, but both deny that the subject of Trump’s visit was discussed. I strongly suspect that it was. There is rarely such a direct link to be drawn between public action and response from those with power, but each public protest speaks to the strength and tenor of opinion. Every one sets out a position and raises the stakes. So, protests, rallies and marches … they DO sometimes work!