“An Islamophobic policy, which clearly expresses Trump’s willingness to oppress minorities” – Bridget Taylor

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By Bridget Taylor

An estimated 8000 people gathered in Albert Square, Manchester on Monday night to protest against Donald Trump’s latest attack on refugees and migrants. Trump’s executive order denies refugees access to the US for the next four months, bans Syrian refugees indefinitely, and bars entry for citizens from seven countries that have a majority Muslim population – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen for the next three months. This is an Islamophobic policy, which clearly expresses Trump’s willingness to oppress minorities and deny basic human rights to those fleeing conflict and repressive regimes, in the name of ‘making America great again’.

The atmosphere in Albert Square was inspiring. Considering the protest had only been called two days previously, the turnout was impressive. Many protesters carried homemade placards, from the now classic ‘Love Trumps Hate’ to the humorous ‘No one likes a Trump that follows through’ to the powerful ‘Muslims are not the enemy’. A defining feature of these protests, that occurred across the country, is that they were not consciously co-ordinated or called by any particular organisation, they simply came out of people’s anger and concern, fuelling a desire to take action. Miriam, a student attending, said simply, “The Muslim ban is just wrong. Muslims are equal to everyone else, and it’s disturbing that we have to defend that fact.”

When asked about the sustainability of these protests, she replied, “It depends on what Trump keeps doing. If he goes quieter it could tail off. Right now it’s a mish-mash of people, defined by the fact that they’re anti-Trump, but there are so many different people who are willing to get angry. It could be the movement’s strength.”

For many, it will be the second time in ten days that they’ve protested against Trump’s actions. The women’s marches were called to mark the day of Trump’s inauguration, not with a specific target, but simply to express a generalised outrage at his scapegoating of refugees and migrants, the records of his misogyny that came to light while he was campaigning, his climate change denial, and his willingness to bend the truth and attack the freedom of the press. At the time it felt important to challenge the bigotry of a man who is the supposed ‘leader of the free world’, whose words and actions do not take place in a vacuum; far right leaders from across Europe have already taken heart from his election.

The necessity of those protests has now been borne out by his subsequent actions. He is no longer a buffoon who can be easily dismissed – simultaneously mocked and lapped up by the world’s media. He is a dangerous man with very real power who has already used it to devastating effect; hundreds of people from the countries concerned, who were mid-flight or arriving at airports when the order was signed, have already been detained.

However, this policy has a much wider and deeper impact. It will prevent refugees who need urgent aid from being able to seek sanctuary in the US. It will prevent those from the countries affected, who may be trying to escape desperate living conditions, from searching for a better life there. It will affect the millions in the US who have family living abroad. But it also represents a really significant shift in attitude. Demonising and repressing minorities is not an innocent act. In the House of Commons this week, MPs made comparisons between Trump’s America and 1930s Europe, accusing Theresa May of ‘appeasement’ (she has refused to criticise the order and seeks to maintain close ties with the US, recently making a friendly state visit). This may seem farfetched, and yet with nationalism and right wing populism on the rise, the similarities are there, and his actions cannot go unopposed.

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