Newcastle Unites

A crowd was gathering last night in Newcastle’s city centre. Tables had been erected in front of The Monument, and scattered along its stairs were people in high-vis jackets holding microphones, and others around them who had set up cameras. Cries of “refugees are welcome here” could be heard over the sound of drums, and people in droves flocked around speakers with placards.

The overwhelming message as the crowd gathered was that by no means would Trump be welcome on a state visit to the UK. Speaker Cathy Turner, a trade unionist, called Trump a “petulant, vindictive demagogue”, and said Theresa May’s behaviour on her state visit and refusal to condemn much of Trump’s behaviour was “embarrassing,” going on to say, “we don’t want to support this man, we don’t want to condone his racist, misogynistic views… not in our name.”

As a young person who stumbled across the protest, finding myself in a crowd of people who felt a similar way to me¬†was beyond uplifting. It was fantastic to see such a swell of support for the groups Trump has victimised; such an out-pouring of kindness when we are constantly bombarded with messages of hatred and prejudice. One speaker, a Gateshead Councilwoman, reiterated throughout her speech how “love is stronger than hate,” and that we will “fight harder, fight together for love and tolerance”. It is this kind of persistence, this constant resistance to what we see as wrong, that there needs to be more of. Frankly, I have been disheartened over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve seen Trump’s spiralling behaviour with no sign of improvement. I worry constantly that this is perhaps what people are, that I have been naive, and that we don’t have a chance in fighting for the next four years. But witnessing this little pocket of people who want change, who can see problems and will work to fix them, was the best reassurance I could have possibly received.

Reverend Jeffrey Brown, a civil rights activist who was an architect of the Boston Miracle, spoke about how glad he was to see people in Newcastle standing shoulder to shoulder with those struggling in America, and thanked the crowd for “standing up”. He finished by quoting Martin Luther King, saying “a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and this was the message which could be felt reverberating throughout the crowd. Campaigners bemoaned institutional racism here in Britain, and spoke about how we need to tackle these issues alongside the ingrained problems in countries like the US. Another speaker, from the group ‘Stand up to Racism’, said an invitation to Trump to come to Britain was an “insult,” and called out the president’s sexist behaviours saying, “if Trump thinks he can declare war on 51% of the population, something tells me he’s got another thing coming.”

What I have wondered continuously since Trump’s election is whether or not Trump holds any real power, or is able to reflect the state of a country, and of a world, which allowed him to be elected. That is not to say I don’t of course understand that he is the president, and of course he has some power (a rather scary amount when it comes down to it), but presidents have existed before who have been able to elicit very little actual change. I want to resist hyperbole, and am cautious in any sweeping judgements about the impending World War Three. However, last night I came to the conclusion that the biggest threat Trump holds is his power to divide, and the fact every racist, sexist or Islamophobic word that comes out of his mouth will reach millions, and no doubt influence many. But this simply means that for each snippet of rhetoric, every sound bite or shocking quote, we need ten pieces of well-thought-out and balanced argument that can be heard above the fray. Tenacity and resistance is at this point crucial, and so we shall continue repeating the same arguments, calling out each of Trump’s behaviours, until he is no longer president; if he won’t stop, neither will we.