It was the day the Donald Trump baby blimp had been waiting for as thousands took to central London to demonstrate against US president Donald Trump’s state trip to the UK.
Today (4 June) the sidewalks of central London were heaving with LGBTI people and allies ahead of a crucial, post-Brexit meeting between Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Despite the thousands of people closing traffic routes and roaring out of megaphones, Trump dubbed the protest ‘fake news.’ He claimed they were ‘very small.’
Protesters congregated at Trafalgar Square, the bustling center of the capital, at 11am sharp.
Before long, thousands marched south, banners held high chanting ‘stand up, fight back,’ towards Whitehall. The president was scheduled to meet PM Theresa May for a midday meeting inside.
While Trump was expected to pressure May not to allow Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, to build its wireless network in the UK, protesters hoped to roll out their own pressure.
This came in the form of a battalion of talks from politicians and activists, including shadow home secretary Diana Abbott and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Why were LGBTI people there against Trump?
Standing in a trinity of flags cutting colorfully between all the red ‘Stop Trump’ signs were Hannah, Paris and Bethany.
The three students had come from three corners of the country—Kingsland, Hampshire and Nottinghamshire—to join the demonstration today.
On Horse Guards Avenue, 19-year-old Hannah, wearing a Pride flag as a headscarf, explained: ‘We’re here today because we think Trump is a twat.
‘Queer people should care because of the horrific things he’s caused them.’
While Paris, wearing their ‘gay shades’ and who has written a musical on Brexit, said: ‘Trump has contradicted himself so many times.
‘The whole transgender ban in the military, basically giving hospitals the choice of whether they care for LGBTI people, and then coming out in the beginning of Pride month saying he’s going to do everything he can for LGBT people. Why?
‘Just take one side.’
Bethany, 19, with purple hair matching the bisexual Pride flag that blanketed her, said: ‘Last month, Trump didn’t even recognize Pride.
‘Yet, one tweet later, he does.
‘That one tweet does not erase all the wrongdoing he’s already done.’
‘His erosion of liberties’
Sam Kelly is a gay man who came from Hertfordshire, around 24 miles north of London, for the day.
Draped and caped in a Pride flag, the 26-year-old told me about how crucial that everybody—LGBTI and allies—take to the streets. He figured about ‘50%’ of protesters were LGBTI.
‘We need to send a message that there is a corruption in the world, and Donald Trump is an embodiment of that corruption.
‘He is the sickness that sits within us all that we keep in control. And he shows it to that world, and he is the face of the Western world.
‘His erosion of liberties that we have taken for granted for over a decade or so. That we in the UK take for granted every day in the run-up to Pride.
‘We go and have a party, but meanwhile, in the US, they’re having it all taken away.’
Trump has created a ‘hostile environment’
Denis Fernando was leading the charge of a bloc of student supporters in the march. Fernando, who runs the anti-racism LGBTI group Rainbow Coalition Against Racism, was there to battle against the ‘hostility’ of Trump.
Before managing the main stage (and before it rained heavily) he told me: ‘Trump has on average targeted LGBTI communities almost once per week since his presidency, as documented by GLAAD, and has targeted trans children in schools.
‘Far right groups like the KKK are emboldened by his continued reaction and that will impact on LGBTI people and us all .’
‘Together, we are stronger’
Leanne MacMillan, director of global programmes at Stonewall, spoke to Gay Star News in advance of the protest about the importance or recognizing the Trump administration as a ‘threat.’
She said: ‘We have been increasingly alarmed at the steps President Trump and his administration have taken to row back the rights of trans people in the US.
‘Trump and his administration have consistently shown a disregard for the wellbeing and safety of all groups who face discrimination and send a clear message that the most powerful person in the world does not value equal rights for the LGBT community, in the US and beyond.
‘Trump’s return to Britain is an opportunity to come together and show why LGBT equality need to be something that matters to everyone. Together, we are stronger than any hate that might try to divide us.’
Wait, what is a state visit?
It’s a formal trip to the UK by a head of state, typically at the Queen’s invitation.
Not only are they grand occasions filled with wreath-laying and suited handshakes, they’re also vital times for two nations to strengthen their relationship.
Visitors usually stay at either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, but because Buckingham Palace is being renovated, the US president is not staying there this time around.
What will Trump be doing in the UK?
After repeated awkward delays across two years, Trump’s arrival at 9.00am yesterday in London Stansted, an airport roughly 42 miles northeast of the capital, kicked-off his three-day state visit.
The high-profile and precisely-scheduled engagement is full of meetings about diplomatic and trade issues, tea with the Queen, and flights to different parts of the UK.
While his Air Force One landed smoothly to blue skies, Trump’s trip will likely be full of turbulence and headline-making tweets.
The divisive president has entered a country divided by its withdrawal from the European Union.