This evening a short-notice peaceful protest took place in Guildhall Square in Portsmouth. The event, in response to the hate-filled, racist policies of Trump’s first few days in office (notably the ban on Muslim immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the US), was organised by ‘Don’t Hate Donate’, a small Portsmouth based charity dedicated to the humanitarian cause. The event organisers estimated 500 people were there to reject Trump’s administration and show solidarity for the protests currently taking place in American airports and across the UK.
It was an expression of unity, love and peace against the fearful times we live in. There were chants of ‘Build bridges not walls!’, ‘No Trump, no hate, no KKK, not fascists in the USA!’ and ‘Donald Trump, hear us say, let them in and let them stay!’. There were speeches from men, women, children, members of the Muslim community, members of the LGBTQ community, people from all walks of life coming together, building connections and rejecting the racism within the governments of the world.
This was not without PGS representation as no less than 6 Sixth Formers braved the drizzle to make their voice heard: myself, Grace Goodfellow, Robert Merriam, Megan Baston-Steele, Gemma Webb and Floss Willcocks were all able to wave some placards, make some noise and (in Gemma and Floss’ case) sport some home-made anti-Trump T-shirts.
But what’s the point? We’re not American, we’re not directly impacted by these policy changes in the US and none of us have even had the opportunity to vote before. So why spend an hour and a half in the cold and wet with a group of total strangers shouting about a man whom we had no power to vote in or out?
We must show solidarity with those in America who have to deal with a leader who did not gain the popular vote, has no experience in political leadership and who is rewriting all the policies Obama has spent the last 8 years trying to achieve. We must show solidarity with those in Syria who have nothing to do with the conflict but are having the homes torn apart by a civil war, by ISIS and by western bombs. We must show solidarity with those fleeing war-torn nations, seeking refuge, seeking sanctuary, seeking a new life, with a new job, in a safe nation like our own and the United States. We must show solidarity with those in Germany and across Europe who have helped, and continue to help, these innocent people. And most of all, at this time, we must show solidarity with all those who have experienced racism, giving a clear message that we will not stand for it.
Our political engagement is more important now than it ever has been in my lifetime at least. The Women’s March on the 21st January saw over 3 million people worldwide join a movement against Trump and his patriarchal, misogynistic views. It was the culmination of several particularly divisive campaigns from the past year that got a lot of press coverage. Both Brexit and Trump’s election drew bigger crowds than previous elections and were affected by young voters. However with the post-truth politics and alternative facts surrounding these campaigns, especially Trump’s, many feel cheated or fed up with the political system.
Now is not the time to be complacent or give in to apathy. We must petition and protest and march and make noise until our voices are heard and until the tolerant majority are able to create a world of acceptance and peace. We need to reassess our systems of government and think creatively about how we can work together as communities to support each other, support human rights and support a vision of a better world.
On this note I urge those that can to attend the ‘Stand Up To Racism’ National Demonstration in London on Saturday the 18th March. Make your voice heard, make your opinions known and show that we, as a school and as a nation, will not stand for racism in any form, even in the highest office in the world.
Seek connection, seek unity, seek peace and fight the political turmoil we find ourselves in!