|Thousands assembled on Tuesday evening to join the No to NATO protest as NATO leaders came together for the 70th anniversary NATO summit. For a US President to visit the UK in the middle of a General Election campaign is unprecedented and protesters came out in force on this cold December evening to make their feelings known. Not only were anti-war protesters braving the cold but also a large contingent of NHS workers along with doctors and nurses, to make it clear that the NHS is not for sale.
Rousing speeches were given as the crowd assembled in the late afternoon. Reiner Braun from the International Peace Bureau and Medea Benjamin from Code Pink gave an insight into how NATO is perceived in Europe and the US; representatives of the Kurds in London were protested against Erdogan’s recent atrocities against the Kurds, while Tariq Ali and Lindsey German of Stop the War spoke of Trump and the so called Special Relationship. Kate Hudson (CND) told of the devastating impact and escalating cost of nuclear weapons. Speaker after speaker made it clear how NATO is a force for war not peace and how much Trump and all he stands for is reviled by the British public.
The demonstration began in Trafalgar Square and aimed to march down the Mall to Buckingham Palace in time for the arrival of the NATO leaders attending a reception with the Queen. At least that was the plan. In reality police action inhibited the march and the assembly of the protest. By refusing to close the roads at the assembly point at Trafalgar Square, and twice blocking the route as thousands poured down the Mall, the police succeeded in preventing the protesters from greeting the Queen’s guests as they arrived.
Held for forty minutes on the Mall, mounted police announced to the marchers that they were being kept back for their own safety; in reality it was blatantly clear that crowd safety was the last thing on the police’s mind. The crowd was penned into a small, narrow space, repeatedly told to ‘stop pushing’ although it was hardly possible to move, and when one protester became panicked was jeered and mocked at by the police officer from whom she sought assistance. Once the ‘danger’ of being in the line of sight of passing dignitaries had passed, the protesters were allowed to continue to the Palace, to be met by even more police and the handful of Trump supporters who had been permitted to greet their hero.
Not to be deterred the protest continued and protesters waited for the reception to end so they could make their voices heard. They may not have seen or heard the protest on their arrival at the Palace, but with the drums, trumpets and whistles of the protesters, the NATO leaders could not fail to miss it on their departure.
Back at Trafalgar Square, the R3 Soundsystem - Dance Music Against Trump - was in full swing with dancers blocking the road and music echoing down Whitehall throughout the Trump-Boris Johnson meeting at Downing Street. GloSticks, Dump Trump and No To Nato placards were held high and thrust in the air in time to the beat. This was Trump’s third visit to London and the third London welcome he has received. Hopefully it will be his last.
The demonstration was organised by Stop the War Coalition, CND and the International No to War No to NATO network.
Supported by: Stop Trump, Stand up to Trump, Keep our NHS Public, Muslim Association of Britain, UK Students Climate Network, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Bolivia, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stand up to Racism, Love Music Hate Racism, R3 Soundsystem, Kurdish Solidarity Campaign, Unity of Democratic Forces (Kurdish and Turkish Community Centres), Friends of Al-Aqsa and the People's Assembly.