It’s official. The giant tangerine is blessing our shores with his presence. On Friday 13 July. You really couldn’t make it up. But the bad news for Trump is that he really isn’t welcome. In less than 24 hours since the announcement was made, and at the time of writing, 38,000 people on Facebook said they’d attend the protests. A further 109,000 said they were interested.
Yes, this is Facebook. And yes, Facebook figures for people attending events are unreliable. But it gives an indication. The protests will be massive. And Trump won’t be happy. He’s cancelled his previous travel plans because of the threat of protests. And he previously said he wouldn’t visit the UK unless protests were banned.
Without doubt, this level of political engagement is great. We need mass mobilisations on our streets. I’ll be going. Loads of my friends are going. Anyone who is capable should be going. We must and should be sending a clear message that Trump is not welcome.
Who else is the UK wining and dining?
But this doesn’t mean there aren’t questions. In particular, why will we all protest Trump but not other world leaders?
Theresa May regularly wines and dines leaders from regimes across the world; regimes whose presence in the UK should have us all on the streets.
- Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Arabian crown prince, was welcomed with open arms by the PM in March. The UK government has licensed $6.4bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began in 2015. UNICEF reported in December 2017 that more than 5,000 children have been killed or injured in Yemen since the conflict began. Cholera and acute diarrhoea have affected over a million people and 8.4 million people are at risk of starvation.
- On 12 May, King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa of Bahrain will attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show as a guest of the queen. Over the past year, Bahrain has continued to conduct “large-scale” operations to crush dissent. Amnesty International has condemned the regime for brutally repressing freedom of expression and human rights. Bahrain is also a major customer for the UK arms trade. The UK has licensed £82m of arms to the Bahrain regime since the attempted pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
- Also in May, the PM will host Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Since the breakdown of the Kurdish peace process in July 2015, the humanitarian situation in the Kurdish regions in the south-east of Turkey has drastically deteriorated. Among other human rights violations, the Turkish government is accused of committing torture and unlawful killings. According [pdf, p2] to the UN, 2,000 people were killed in 18 months of fighting from the breakdown of the ceasefire. Between 350,000 and 500,000 people have been displaced. In January 2017, Theresa May signed a £100m deal for BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to develop fighter jets for Turkey. And between July and September 2016, the UK sold Turkey £26m-worth of armoured plate, body armour and helmets; as well as £8.5m-worth of aircraft, helicopters and drones; and almost £4m-worth of licences for missiles, bombs and “counter-measures”.
People have protested and will protest these events. But it’s a sure-fire bet that these visits will not attract the level of interest that Trump’s will.
See you on the streets!
Yes, let’s take to the streets against Trump. But let’s also make sure other world leaders get the same reception. Let’s not confine our protests to Trump, as obvious and as big a target as he is. Theresa May is wining and dining world leaders who are causing widespread death, serious injury, and the displacement of huge numbers of people. And she is doing so to promote the sale of UK weapons.
Trump’s initial reaction over visiting the UK shows the power that mass mobilisations against world leaders can have. All of us have this power, but we need to use it. Because lives depend on it.
See you on the streets!
– Join the protests against Trump.
– Join the protests against the Royal Windsor Horse show.
– Support Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Featured image via Flickr/Gage Skidmore