(European Civic Forum on CIVICUS Monitor)
Ahead of Trump visit to #UK, activists urge police to facilitate peaceful protest, not close it down to appease visitors. #freedomofassembly #right2freeassembly https://t.co/tBrmiGxV9c
— ECNL (@enablingNGOlaw) July 10, 2018
A demonstration opposing US President Donald Trump was held in Trafalgar Square, London, on 13th July 2018 to protest his visit to the UK and demand that the government not normalise the US leader’s agenda and narrative. Over 100,000 people took part in the rally. Protests were also organised in a number of other locations across the country. The event in London was peaceful and only six arrests were reported. Nevertheless, Netpol reported that the organisers experienced an unprecedented lack of cooperation and obstruction by the Metropolitan (Met) police for what should have been a straightforward arrangement of routes and logistics. For example, the police originally objected to the demonstration having stages and a sound system. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told The Canary:
“We are preparing for a multi-faceted policing and security operation, involving the protection and movement of the President. We are anticipating people to gather in the capital to demonstrate both for and against the president. The requirements of this complex operation need to be balanced with the right of individuals to a freedom of speech. This will be a multi-agency operation with a very experienced command team.”
Event organiser Michael Chessum said:
“The police knew well in advance that we were planning to put a stage in the beginning of the protest. At two days’ notice, they’ve cancelled permission for that stage and effectively for a sound system because they said no vehicle can come anywhere near the area.”
“the police and the state cannot place totally arbitrary and unreasonable limitations on a protest, and that’s what we’re looking at here”.
The green light was given after the organisers vowed to take legal action:
UPDATE: the @metpoliceuk have backed down on refusing to allow #TrumpUKVisit protests a proper rally at start point. We will now be allowed to .have a major PA system. Hilariously, they admit in an email: "We have felt compelled to do this because of the extent of media coverage"
— Michael Chessum (@michael_chessum) July 12, 2018
The use of facial recognition by the Metropolitan Police during the protest also raised concerns and a small group of demonstrators painted their faces to raise awareness about the issue. Liberties’ Donnchadh Greene commented:
“Although we have had assurances this tech will not be used on Friday, it has previously been deployed at protests with no prior public knowledge or consultation and we will be sending a clear signal that we won’t stand for it. Look out for us on Friday and get your face painted to stand with us against this erosion of our rights.”
While it is still unclear whether this technology was deployed, protesters did report the use of rooftop surveillance on the march:
Despite huge numbers at today's London #StopTrump demonstration and a massive police presence, so far legal observers report only six arrests.
It remains unclear, therefore, why the police thought rooftop surveillance on the entire march was either necessary or proportionate pic.twitter.com/VoWSd6bQyd
— Netpol (@netpol) July 13, 2018
Featured image: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images