By Harry Webster and Gabriella Mansell
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Cardiff last Monday, in attempt to show “unity”, and “give a voice” to those exiled by President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order.
The polarizing policy, which bans immigrants and visa holders from seven majority Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan – from entering the US for 90 days, has been met by staunch opposition and protest across the UK, and has even seen a petition put to Parliament to the ban the President himself from the country.
One protester, a Cardiff University history student, Yousif Nadeem, told Gair Rhydd of how the policy had ruined his plans to move to the US upon obtaining his degree.
Speaking exclusively to Gair Rhydd, first-year Nadeem said, “I’m here because I am Muslim and I am hoping that after I’m finished with university for three years I am hoping to get a work permit in the US, and that’s probably not going to happen now.
“By me being a part of this I can hope to help to prevent this ban.”
Sympathy for Mr Nadeem’s feelings were shared amongst protesters, with many claiming they had come out to show unity, and support for those affected by the ban. One protester, “I don’t believe what’s happening in America is the way forward, not just for America, but for the rest of the world.
“I hope together we will see people out on the streets and give a voice to those in need, but it’s just saying to the people who are experiencing a live that most of us have never had to go through, apart from our grandparents and great grandparents, that such hatred and hostility towards the other can’t go on in the 21st century, and in 2017.”
Such a rhetoric was ever-present, with demonstrators across the country offering assurances to those outcast by the President’s policy, with protesters up and down the country being heard chanting “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”
Cardiff University Law student, Tyler Ayah, expressed disbelief at Mr. Trump’s’ policy, telling Gair Rhydd, “I personally don’t agree with all that Trump is doing, and I think we are lucky to live in a place where we are not prejudiced by what we believe in.”
When pressed to answer whether she was protesting directly against the ban, or against the British Prime Minister’s complicity with Mr. Trumps’ actions, Ms. Ayah said, “I think more with Trump’s actions but indirectly with the UK because they are refusing to do anything about it.”
First year student, Aisling Power agreed, stating that her main reasons for protesting consisted of: “Trump’s actions, as otherwise we wouldn’t have issues like the UK being complicit but Theresa May isn’t doing everything she could be doing, considering she is supposed to be the leader of one of the most powerful countries”.
Indeed, this was a feeling shared amongst many of the protesters with the Cardiff protest being of increased prominence, having coincided with Theresa May coming to the Welsh capital for the meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee.
Mrs. May came under heavy criticism from many for her failure to stand up to the President in her recent state visit to the US, with First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones stating, “if the special relationship means anything, it must mean honestly calling one another to account. Silence and evasion are not the hallmarks of leadership.”
Mrs May’s visit was also highlighted by the protest organiser Ms. Cox, a first year Cardiff history student, as being a key reason for hosting the demonstration in Cardiff. News of the protest was spread via Facebook, with the event page, “Cardiff Demo Against Trump’s #Muslim Ban”, being joined by 4,700 people with over 10,000 people invited.
Speaking exclusively to Gair Rhydd, Ms. Cox said, “I was propelled to organize the protest by seeing Owen Jones’ demonstration in London and knowing that Theresa May was in Cardiff on Monday, and seeing that there was nothing organized yet when I knew many people who would want to make their voices clear.
Talking about the importance of protesting in Cardiff specifically she added:
“I think demonstrating in Cardiff will show solidarity with refugees and immigrants both in Cardiff, nationally, and internationally, and hopefully encourage people to pay more attention to the struggles of immigrants and refugees, and hopefully give money to charities that help aid them.
“I hope it also shows that Cardiff is a diverse and fantastic city, made even better by its diverse citizens and its Muslim population.”
Additionally, Cox said that she was thrilled with how the event was received, saying, “The general reception was fantastic, I got a small amount of anonymous abuse but nothing I couldn’t handle, and it was amazing to see Cardiff show up to defend people the way I did.”
Despite the sheer number of attendees attracted to the demonstration, the protest was overwhelmingly peaceful with many of Cardiff’s residents both students and locals joining together to voice their concerns for Trump’s executive order travel ban.
Following the successful nature of the Cardiff based Trump demo and the upcoming parliamentary debate concerning whether or not Trump will be granted a state visit, the Cardiff People’s Assembly and future demonstrations organisers are “calling for a nationwide day of action to stand up and say no to the future of hatred, racism and division that Donald Trump is trying to create – and to say no to the disgraceful complicity of Theresa May and the British government in supporting him.”
In a post on Facebook Cardiff People’s Assembly stated:
“Protests this week saw tens of thousands take to the streets at just a day’s notice. With a bit of work we can make this national day of action massive! We will link up with One Day Without Us, who are already running protests on the same day, to fight for migrants’ rights”.
Despite concerns that these protests are unnecessary reports show that so far these protests are unnecessary, reports have shown that so far the numerous UK wide protests are putting continued pressure on the government.