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Anna Hart explains why University of Bristol students should protest against Trump’s actions.

Standing in the rain at Bristol’s College Green on a cold Monday night, I participated in a protest against Donald Trump’s hateful and divisive Muslim ban, along with thousands of others. There were eloquent and passionate speeches from local campaigners, politicians – including Bristol’s Labour mayor Marvin Rees – and University of Bristol students.

We cannot sacrifice our values and refuse to speak.

We collectively expressed our whole-hearted rejection of this policy, not only through chants and speeches, but also through music and poetry. A reading of Hollie McNish’s brilliantly skilful spoken word poem, ‘Mathematics’, reminded us of the pervasiveness of racism, not just in America, but also in our own country and across the world, and the importance of standing up against it.

We stood together, people of all faiths, ages, nationalities and genders.

Trump’s Muslim ban policy is a scary manifestation of this racism and prejudice. It is not only divisive, discriminatory and deeply unfair, but also completely counterproductive; it plays right into the hands of the terrorists who perpetuate the narrative that the West, and particularly America, are hostile to Islam.

 

We proved that they are wrong. We stood together, people of all faiths, ages, nationalities and genders, to say loud and clear that all are welcome here. We stood in solidarity with each other to defend our values of inclusivity, multiculturalism, tolerance, acceptance and love.

I say that this affects us all.

To those who say this demonstration is irrelevant because the Muslim ban is an American policy, not a British one, I say that this affects us all. The consequences of this policy will be far-reaching and global – not just in terms of the seven countries on the banned list, but it will also test Britain’s values too. We’ve already seen Theresa May cosying up to the Trump administration, much to the horror of many Britons; the anger at our government’s lack of a swift, strong condemnation of this policy was palpable at this protest.

People are demanding confident action from the Prime Minister. We cannot sacrifice our values and refuse to speak out against this racist, discriminatory policy in the hope that our silence will help us acquire a better trade deal, no matter how desperate we are in our current post-Brexit circumstance. There is too much at stake here. ‘Silence is complicity’, as the signs read.

That’s what this demonstration was all about; standing up for people’s fundamental rights.

As well as collectively expressing our anger and disbelief at this divisive policy and our government’s response, we managed to cultivate a sense of hope. One lady’s ‘universal prayer for peace’ poem articulated the values of love, acceptance and tolerance that we were all there to defend. It reminded us of the universality of human nature, as did the sign ‘noone is illegal’. That’s what this demonstration was all about; standing up for people’s fundamental rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of their nationality or faith.

 

It’s all too easy to become absorbed in the student bubble when you’re at university; however, participating in this local activism allowed me not only to exercise my democratic right to protest, but also cultivated a real sense of connection and belonging to the wider community.

As a student here, Bristol has become my second home and, standing there in the drizzle on Monday night, I felt a strong sense of solidarity with, and pride in, my fellow residents of this amazing city as we conveyed our collective message of defiance and hope.


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