Donald Trump’s bullish tactics in his first week as president have finally given people a reason to build the foundations of a global revolution.
On the first day of Trump’s presidency, an estimated 2.5 million women marched across the world for women’s rights, grimly determined to make their voices heard.
The London march, with an estimated 100,000 attendees, stalled for about an hour just opposite Claridges. The atmosphere was cheerful. It was striking just how many women and children were present. It was even more encouraging to see so many men.
Over a hundred years after the original suffragettes, the words ‘deeds not words’ were chanted in the main streets of London. A rather cheerful chant of ‘Hey, Ho Donald Trump has got to go’ was struck up. Police officers were waving. Is this a sign of change?
Meanwhile, Trump was distracted arguing about the size of the crowds at his own inauguration and his top adviser Kellyanne Conway became the subject of derision when she told journalists at a press conference that the president’s recollection of massive crowds at the inauguration was ‘alternative facts’.
With all this going on, you’d think that he wouldn’t have time to comment on the women’s movement. Wrong. He managed to pick a fight with Madonna over her comments during a speech at the Washington DC march. Nasty!
It took a shock to the system for global apathy on human rights to dispel. Widespread dissent has snowballed into a global civil and womens’ rights movement. But Trump is not yet afraid. And he’s not slowing down.
During his first week as leader of the ‘free world’, he has threatened to sign an executive action on refugees, has brought up plans to kickstart the ‘Muslim register’ and has signed an executive order for ‘extreme vetting’ for inmigrants into the US. He has threatened to withdraw US funding to NGOs if they talk about abortions , and reassured voters that he will go ahead with the building of a wall to separate the US from Mexico, which would cost billions of dollars.
Rather than focus his efforts on addressing protests, Trump has focused on denouncing the press. His love-hate relationship with the media (love with Fox News and Murdoch, hate with most every other news outlet) reached a staggering crescendo when he began to use Twitter as a way to denounce any negative press on him as ‘fake news’. The latest tweet, from his official account, questions whether the New York Times should fold.
Two days ago, he held hands with Theresa May when heading to their first joint press conference and joked “there goes that relationship” when a BBC journalist asked him a legitimate question. In the background, May shrugged apologetically. A day later, Trump adviser Steve Bannon told journalists to ‘sit down and shut up’.
What will he do next? All cards are off the table. Many have already called for the support of the free press – one of which was actor Meryl Streep, who at the Golden Globes called for donations to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Little will stop him tweeting about ‘fake news’ and ‘biased media’ regarding news stories that he doesn’t agree with. But if people continue their support of journalists questioning the actions of the powerful, the president will continue to be held to account.
Perhaps we should thank Trump. This week, more people have hit the streets in collective protests than in the last decade. Trump’s stance as a clear opponent to civil liberties, perhaps activists would be less able to unite under a same cause and go out to campaign on a massive scale.
The outrageous, shocking nature of Trump’s persona has led to more vehement protests over some of the same issues that were implemented during the George W Bush administration and touted by the Republicans for the last four years. The boogeyman cometh.
And what of the UK? The biggest argument against getting involved in activist activity is that US politics are nothing to do with us. We cannot influence policy. But we can influence our own politicians’ interaction with the Trump administration.
Rather than looking awkwardly embarrassed at press freedom in action, May should have backed the journalists’ questions and asked him to respond.
People’s attitude to campaigning and protesting, so downtrodden following the mass protests against the Iraq war (subsequently ignored by Parliament), has recovered and is stronger than ever.
At the moment, people at US airports are protesting against his ban of Muslim immigrants from seven countries around the world – regardless of their green card status. The latest news from the BBC indicates that he doesn’t plan to stand down. This has caused a global backlash, with over 500,000 UK residents signing a petition to keep Trump away from the UK.
Activist and Guardian journalist Owen Jones has called for a protest in London tomorrow. Whether it goes ahead is still debatable – but the will and appetite to have the publics’ voice heard is alive. The ‘Stand up against Racism’ protest on the 18th of March will no doubt be a good opportunity to revisit the topic of segregation and Islamophobia.
For words of inspiration, go no further than Emmeline Pankhurst’s ‘My Own Story’, which I reviewed last year.