Several hundred protesters gathered in St Helen’s Square in York yesterday to take part in an ‘Emergency Protest’ against United States’ newly inaugurated President Donald Trump.
Mr Trump has come under severe criticism following his new immigration restrictions on seven Islamic countries, as well as his decision to suspend the intake of refugees from Syria.
As previously reported by The Yorker, the event was organised by York Momentum, and was one of a number of protests nationwide. However, whilst Mr Trump was the primary target of protest, the protesters also attacked the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, who has invited Trump to a state visit to the UK later this year, refusing to overturn the invite in the wake of a petition on the Government’s website amassing almost 1,500,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Crowds gathered with signs reading ‘Stop Racist Attacks’, ‘No to Racism, No to Trump’ and ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ Others called to defend civil liberties against what they saw as unconstrained nationalism.
In addition, there were many homemade signs being displayed. Many of them made links with the past: for example, one stated ‘Welcome to 1933’ [the year that Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany], whilst another paraphrased German pastor Martin Niemöller’s ‘First They Came…’ speech. One simply depicted a Swastika crossed out.
Around 17:05 the addresses begun. St Helen’s Square quickly filled up, and by 17:20 the square was almost completely full. Firstly, the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU)’s Academic Officer Tamaki Laycock spoke passionately against discrimination. She referred to the impact of the stop of the flow of ideas as a consequence of Mr Trump’s policies. Laycock stated that she has faced discrimination not only in her native United States, but also here in the United Kingdom, and spoke in praise of tackling racial discrimination.
Secondly, Rachael Maskell, the Labour/Co Operative MP for York Central spoke. Maskell, who also spoke in the previous week’s York Women’s March, talked of how “great it was to see this square full,” before giving three key points to the crowd. The first was that “we have power.” Secondly, she told the crowd to “know your history,” making parallels with the rise of fascism in the 1930s. Thirdly, she appealed to York’s inhabitants to say that “we do not stand for that [racist discrimination] in our country.”
Another notable speaker was University of York academic Kate Pickett. Professor Pickett spoke of her 16 years living in the United States and the fact that her children are US citizens. Despite stressing how “welcoming” the majority of US citizens were, she stated that it was “disturbing” how many Americans knew nothing of places outside their country. She appealed to the audience to “keep on protesting.”
Finally, the group was addressed by a member of York Momentum. At the end of his speech, the crowds begun to march in a circle of the city centre. The route took them down Parliament Street, at which the marchers chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear: immigrants are welcome here.” At the end of Parliament Street, the march turned down High Ousegate and Coney Street, where the chant changed to, “Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here.” The protesters made their way back to St Helen’s Square, chanting ‘Down with Trump’ and ‘Refugees are Welcome Here’.
Many were surprised at the number of people who turned out – almost the entirety of Parliament Street and Coney Street were lined with protesters are varying points. The talks and march were both peaceful, with no confrontation. Despite the wide ranging ages and ethnicities of the marchers, all aimed to send a clear message to Trump and Theresa May – that they would not tolerate discrimination against Muslims, or any other racial discrimination.
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