Thousands of demonstrators descended on the streets of Sheffield on Friday night in “a sensational evening for unity and integration” protesting US President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK.
In one of the city’s largest ever protests, featured on the BBC News at 10, about 4,000 people gathered outside Sheffield City Hall in Barker’s Pool at 5pm, marched down Division Street waving placards and chanting, and applauded a host of defiant speakers.
The American President’s controversial three-day working visit ignited protests in towns and cities across the country, from Plymouth to Glasgow, with a central 100,000-strong march taking place in London on Friday.
Organised by Sheffield Together Against Trump, the people of Sheffield marched with placards reading ‘super gallous fragile racist sexist lying Potus’, adapting the Mary Poppins riddle, to ‘we don’t want you baby!’.
‘Sheffield did itself proud’
Nasaar Raoof, from Sheffield Stand up to Racism, who worked with other community activist groups to organise the rally, said it was “a sensational evening for unity and integration.”
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Speaking to Forge, he added: “It was a sign of great success in sending a clear message to both our government that catered for Trump and to President trump that we will let this politics of fear and hatred be preached. There was so much warmth in the crowd it was just simply amazing.”
Former leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett told Forge that Sheffield “did itself proud”, praising the “spectacular” turnout and the positive focus “on how things could and should be different, in the US and the UK.”
In what Matthew Reeve, of Sheffield Stand Up To Racism, hailed as a “record crowd for an anti-racist protest in Sheffield in recent years if not ever,” Friday’s showing topped the 3,000 people who took to Sheffield’s streets to protest Trump’s Muslim Ban last year.
Sheffield SU, some of whose officers joined the marches, added to the chorus of support, reaffirming the “important democratic right” to protest, and hailing the strong resistance that the nationwide protests have shown.
“Trump’s consistent displays of sexism, racism, ableism, Islamophobia and homophobia are profoundly wrong, and Britain’s state welcome is unacceptable,” SU President Lilian Jones added.
A sprinkling of pro-Trump activists also turned out – “almost enough for a game of five-a-side,” Daniel Dylan Wray commented on Twitter.
Standing with Magid
The march formed part of Lord Mayor Magid Magid’s ‘Mexico Solidarity Day’, with nine bars across the city offering free tequila and groups seen wearing sombreros, all in response to the President’s pledge that he would build a wall between Mexico and the US.
As the Lord Mayor joined around 100,000 others at the London march, a statement read on his behalf said: “Sheffield is a city of love, a city of respect, a city where we welcome people. A city where we treat people the way we want to be treated ourselves and no ‘giant orange waste man’ is going to change that.”
It comes after Nick Stevens, an organiser from the Hope Not Hate group, told Forge on Friday that the march had added significance in showing solidarity with Mr Magid and the city’s minority communities.
Further speakers included Erin Keane of the Sheffield LGBT+ group, and Gill Furniss, the MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, who remembered the city’s core values as the nation’s first ‘City of Sanctuary’.
“We do not put up with this Trump nonsense. We know we open our arms to those coming to us for safety,” the Sheffield Star reported her saying.
Too powerful to ignore
In her speech, Natalie Bennett energised the crowd into thinking about the policies that will deliver “a healthier, happier society”, ending the “miserable, insecure society” that she sees neoliberalism as having created.
“Several people said to me that they’d been feeling depressed about the state of the world and Britain in particular, but spending time with other people determined to create and deliver change had given them a new sense of energy and determination,” she added.
Initially envisaged as an official state welcome, Trump’s hugely controversial visit was postponed several times and reduced to a ‘working visit’, although since arriving on Thursday he has still met the Queen at Windsor Castle, and enjoyed a black-tie dinner with the Prime Minister at Blenheim Palace.
The President’s extensive security entourage attempted to keep the mass protests out of view, including the 20ft ‘Trump Baby’ balloon which was flown over Parliament Square on Friday, but a Greenpeace paraglider breached a no-fly zone around his Turnberry golf course on Saturday brandishing a ‘Trump, well below par’ banner.
Speaking to Forge, Sheffield resident Ms Bennett added: “Not only did 4,000 people turn out to show their opposition to the policies of Donald Trump and the way in which Theresa May was failing to stand against them, but they did so in a spirit of comradeship and celebration of democracy.”
Explaining the passion, organiser Mr Raoof said: “President Trump’s policies of hatred, racism, sexism and fascism will no longer go unanswered as crowds shouted he wasn’t welcome in Sheffield and should leave the United Kingdom as we do not stand for his building walls and sick caging children mentality.”
He added: “It was so refreshing to see young and old, gay/straight and all faiths walking shoulder to shoulder.”