Donald Trump’s refusal to allow people from seven Muslim-majority countries to enter the US has sparked international outrage, with protests springing up across the US and beyond. In the UK in particular, campaigners are angered by Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent meeting with Trump and his invitation to visit the UK.
As a protest march had been organised in London for February 4th, Bristol Stop The War Coalition and Stand Up To Racism Bristol decided to hold one on the same day. This seemed appropriate given the huge number of Bristolians who signed the petition to prevent Trump from visiting the UK (the petition is now approaching two million signatures). After hearing about the event, I knew I had to be a part of it.
I arrived just as the pre-march rally at the Waterfront was getting started. A few people gave talks, including an Irish junior doctor born to immigrant parents and a Mexican studying in Bristol.
The part which stood out to me most was the junior doctor’s assertion that it was Government cuts which were putting strain on the NHS, not immigrants. It’s so easy for the Government to scapegoat immigrants to cover up its own failings.
We then began to march around the city centre – all 2000 of us! Though the route wasn’t particularly long, the sheer number of people meant that we made slow progress. We stopped traffic on several occasions!
The atmosphere was amazing. People were chanting positive messages, music was playing through speakers, and a sea of clever and hilarious placards bobbed above the crowds. Happily, the weather was sunny for the first time in what felt like weeks. It made me smile to see the number of kids who were marching, holding placards and chanting alongside their parents.
The public was supportive, with several drivers (including bus drivers!) honking their horns in solidarity. Many pedestrians stopped to watch us go by. One motorcyclist got stuck in the crowd and decided to just go with the flow, grinning as he trundled along at walking pace.
When we eventually made it back to our starting point, there were more speeches. I was unfortunately unable to stay for these, as I needed to cycle home before it got dark. I’m sad I had to leave early, especially as I’ve heard reports of people dancing on the Waterfront after the march!
Events like this are so powerful, and I think it’s really important to show our faces and take part. I’m sure the march inspired many members of the public, and made many others think. But its impact has already stretched much further than that, as it’s been reported in the news and a multitude of photos and videos have been shared online.
This is a frightening time for many of us; it’s easy to feel helpless, but these feelings are an illusion. It’s empowering to march alongside thousands of people who share your views, and it reminds you that there really is hope. For me, it was wonderful to see so many people in favour of abolishing walls and borders, letting in refugees, and banishing racists rather than Muslims!
My favourite placard was probably the one that said “If you don’t like refugees, stop making them.” It was a powerful reminder that our country is at least partially to blame for the refugee crisis. By failing to help those who flee the conflicts we contribute to, we betray them once again.
Have you taken part in a march like this, or would you like to? Do you think marches are an effective way of creating change? Leave a comment to let me know.
To view photos and videos of the Bristol march, visit the event page on Facebook. Many thanks to Bristol Stop The War Coalition for allowing me to use their photo. Check out their page and get involved if you’re in the Bristol area!