NEWS
03/06/2019 5:20 PM IST | Updated 03/06/2019 5:30 PM IST

Crisis Fatigue: Do Brits Even Have The Energy To Protest Donald Trump This Week?

Or could something even more mundane limit numbers?

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The Trump protests in Trafalgar Square last year.

It’s 13 July 2018. Around 100,000 people stand packed into Trafalgar Square, braving a stifling summer sun, a massive police presence and a wholly inadequate number of toilets.

As far as the eye can see, a curious cacophony of carnival celebration and visceral disgust manifests in songs, chants and quintessentially British placards, all of it captured by the world’s media, and all of it directed at one man – Donald Trump.

A lot has happened since then – Britain still hasn’t left the EU, the PM is the PM in title only, Tories are battling to fill her shoes and Extinction Rebellion has pushed climate change and the imminent doom of our planet even further into the public conscience.

Everything is a bit of a mess. So will Brits even have the energy to come out this week and join the planned protests against Trump’s state visit?

The organisers of the demonstrations certainly hope so. Shabbir Lakha, spokesperson for the Stop Trump Coalition that is behind the main march on Tuesday, points out that things were also a bit of a mess when the US president came last year but people still took to the streets.

He told HuffPost UK: “Last year the week before Trump came, Boris Johnson had just resigned as foreign secretary, Theresa May was supposed to be presenting her deal after meeting at Chequers and then it all went to shit.

“That was the main story at the time as well and it wasn’t until Trump touched down in Stansted that it dominated the headlines and my feeling is that it will be the same this year.”

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In the US, the number of controversial issues that have been pushed to the front of the political agenda has only grown, particularly abortion rights with some states recently passing laws banning the procedure, in even in cases of rape and incest.

Kevin Smith, part of the team behind the now-legendary Trump Baby, told HuffPost UK that the “policies and politics that Trump represents are definitely all the more pressing and urgent than ever”.

He adds: ”Last time Trump came the issues were the children being locked up in cages on the border and this time it’s happening in the context of the most horrific roll-back against reproductive freedoms that we’ve seen in the US.”

The crowdfunder for the Trump Baby reached its £30,000 target on Sunday and expects to be granted police permission to fly on Monday.

A 16ft talking robot of Trump sitting on a gold toilet is also expected to make an appearance.

According to a poll published last month, the protests will be massive – 13% of Londoners said they would take to the streets, over one million people. And that’s just those that live in the capital, and so excludes those liable to travel to the capital.

Facebook event pages promoting separate marches have drawn interest from tens of thousands of people.

The listing for one event, co-ordinated by 16 groups and individuals including Momentum and the Stop the War Coalition, said: “Donald Trump is coming to Britain for a state visit. Let’s show him what we think of his divisive, hateful policies.”

It adds: “We will be taking to the streets opposing Trump’s racism, themed areas will feature throughout the protest with climate justice, migrants’ rights, anti-racism, women’s rights, LGBT rights, anti-war and trade union rights, and many more.”

Regional demonstrations across the UK are also planned, including in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Belfast.

But canvassing sun-seekers in London’s parks as they enjoyed the hottest day of the year on Saturday, suggests that something more mundane could limit the numbers that take part.

Last year, the main demonstration began on a Friday afternoon and crowds peaked in the evening as people left work.

This year, the main protest begins at 11am on Tuesday.

John, a 40-year-old east Londoner, told HuffPost UK: “Just because there are crises elsewhere doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protest against that prick.

“I went to the last ones, but it depends on work which is a sad thing to say, but I would like to go.”

This sentiment was echoed by almost all of the people HuffPost UK spoke to. Poppy, 23, and Jess, 22, spoke passionately about the abortion issue and hoped there were large feminist protests, but neither could attend because of work commitments. 

In Hackney Downs park, 36-year-old Christian took a break from sunbathing to say: “It depends on my working schedule. I think both times are important but I think the anger is bigger now, especially here because you have the connection to Brexit.

“I don’t think Trump and Brexit are connected but the anger about politics is up and somebody for Trump.”

And then there are those who protest, but in their own way.

Andrew, a 35-year-old from Bristol, told HuffPost UK: “I’m not joining the protests.

“I think Trump is a cunt but I think the best way of protesting that is not to pay him any attention and to get on with what I was going to do be doing anyway.”

Trump and his wife Melania will be officially welcomed to the UK on Monday by the Queen, and enjoy a private lunch, a visit to Westminster Abbey and later a state banquet in Buckingham Palace.

On Tuesday the president will start the day with a business breakfast meeting co-hosted by Theresa May at St James’ Palace, before talks with the prime minister at Downing Street.

Meanwhile Scotland Yard will be implementing the huge security operation to protect the president and police the crowds – if they can get out of work.