Tens of thousands protest in British cities against Trump's travel ban

Tens of thousands of people protested in London and other British cities against President Donald Trump's ban on entry to the United States by refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.VIDEO: REUTERS
Demonstrators protest outside Downing Street against US President Donald Trump in central London on Jan 30. President Trump signed an executive order on Jan 27 restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries.
Demonstrators protest outside Downing Street against US President Donald Trump in central London on Jan 30. President Trump signed an executive order on Jan 27 restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Tens of thousands of people protested in London and other British cities against President Donald Trump's ban on entry to the United States by refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Thousands of people, some holding placards reading "No to Racism, No to Trump", "Dump Trump" and "I stand with Muslims", joined a protest on Monday outside the Downing Street residence of Prime Minister Theresa May, the first leader to visit President Trump.

Some chanted "Shame on May" for her offer to Trump of a visit to Britain while 1.5 million people signed a petition calling for Trump's planned trip - which will involve lavish displays of royal pageantry and a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth - to be cancelled.

"It's a lot worse under Trump than I was expecting, because it's only been 10 days but he's changed so much already," Rawnak Jassm, a 23-year-old British-Iraqi, who joined the protest, told Reuters. "It's pretty scary."

Trump's immigration order, which was signed just hours after his meeting with the British prime minister in Washington, has soured May's attempt to show that post-Brexit vote Britain can have a "special relationship" with the world's superpower.

Some British voters, including thousands on protests across Britain, have expressed concern that May has failed to criticise Trump sufficiently for his temporary ban on travel to the United States by people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

While the protests in Britain were smaller than those in the United States, they illustrate how Trump's first days in office have had a sometimes unexpected impact on politics across the world, even in some close allies such as Britain.

 

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Trump said the new controls were aimed at securing the United States by keeping out radical Islamic terrorists, but protesters in Britain said the measures were racist and anti-Muslim. Trump has denied the measures are anti-Muslim.

Jassm, on the protest outside Downing Street, expressed anger at May's lack of criticism of Trump and urged the prime minister to stand up for the rights of all people. "We have to campaign and make sure May stands up for the rights of everyone everywhere," said Jassm, who is a project manager in local government.

May's attempt to court Trump, who hailed Britain's June 23 vote to leave the European Union as a "wonderful thing", came in for particular criticism with some saying Britain was now in a weaker position after the Brexit vote. "With Brexit, they have to go around the world, cap in hand," said Rhys Edwards, a 29-year-old art consultant who attended the London protest.

One picture of May at the protest was adorned with the words: "The lady don't protest enough". Another read: "Theresa the Appeaser".

May, who wants to control immigration from the EU after Brexit, said on Monday that Britain has a different approach to immigration but that the United States was a close ally and that the invitation to Trump stood. "The United States is a close ally of the United Kingdom, we work together across many areas of mutual interest and we have that special relationship between us," May said. "I have formally issued that invitation to President Trump and that invitation stands."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told parliament on Monday that the travel ban was a highly controversial policy.

Johnson said he had received assurances from the US embassy that the order would make no difference to British passport holders, irrespective of their country of birth or whether they held a second passport. "This is, of course, a highly controversial policy, which has caused unease and, I repeat, this is not an approach that this government would take," Johnson said.

He added that Britain's alliance with the United States was of "vital importance", particularly on defence, intelligence and security.

Well over a million people in Britain signed a petition calling for Trump's planned state visit to be cancelled to avoid embarrassing Queen Elizabeth.

The petition against the state visit, which is on the British parliament's website, passed the one million mark on Monday morning and by mid-afternoon local time had more than 1.3 million signatories.

 

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