Trump protest: "This is a pivotal time for people to stand up for what they believe"
Political protests play an important role in the democratic process and can help to build solidarity and commitment among those who participate. Attending a demonstration provides very tangible evidence that others hold similar beliefs and ideals and this can be important in building a movement for political change.
Some of our current politics students took part in to last week's protests in Liverpool, in response to 'President Trump’s travel ban, and Theresa May’s refusal to condemn his actions' (Liverpool Momentum).
I asked them what it was like, why they chose to take part and their thoughts on the issues at hand.
Steph McDonagh :
"I’m sure that for anyone who feels as discouraged as I do about the current political situation in Europe and the USA, the scale of participation at the protest at St George’s Hall and more generally in the UK, helped me realise that alongside the growing racism there is also a reassuring strong sentiment of solidarity being built too.
There was an atmosphere of anger, but this was accompanied by the humanitarian feeling of welcoming refugees and stopping racism and hate. Anti-Trump speeches were alternated with activists reciting their poems.
One particularly touching poem was written and recited by Amina, a student from Yemen. It was particularly a sign of hope that Brexit won’t necessarily mean the kind of hard Brexit Theresa May has in mind, which would probably just increase hatred in our country. While there is time to still decide what the UK will be after it leaves the EU, it is fundamental that the message of support and solidarity towards refugees comes across."
"I took part in the protest because I feel that this is one of the points in history upon which various possible futures rests, the 'fate' of a large part of the world will possibly be decided in the weeks and months to come. There has not been such a dramatic shift in style between regime changes in a first world country in my memory.
This is a pivotal time for people to stand up for what they believe is just, so I went along to see how my home city was reacting.
I think it's important if you're studying politics to engage with such events when you can. Being involved and witnessing political events adds a dimension to your studies and further understanding of politics that reading and writing sometimes cannot."
I think that unfortunately, from the perspective of the protestors, it's unlikely that protests in countries like Britain will have any direct effect on the Trump administration. Nonetheless, there is evidence that public sentiment can influence national decisions over foreign policy issues. In 1991 the US closed its Clark Air Base in the Philippines due to the inability to agree on an extension of the lease for the base, which was related to public sentiment regarding US forces. In 2003, the Turkish National Assembly refused permission for US-led coalition forces to invade Iraq via the country.
Significant protests over Theresa May's offer of a state visit to Donald Trump could make that policy problematic. The bilateral relationship that May has attempted to broker between the US and the UK could come at significant cost to the government. However, if those likely to be persuaded by the protests are those who would not vote Conservative in the first place, the pressure on the government would be lower.