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13th Jul 2018

The day Trump’s America came to London

'Why didn't you call him a Nazi?'

Oli Dugmore

A political demonstration through the capital felt like a carnival but strayed toward the juvenile

“Why didn’t you call him a Nazi? You should’ve called him out for being a Nazi,” the woman hovering on my shoulder declares. I’ve just finished interviewing a man shrouded in the flag of the Republic of Kekistan (a fictional nation created by 4chan users to parody the left) – it’s telling my lecturer waited for the man to be out of earshot before scalding us.

The Trump rodeo very definitely arrived in London. Osprey tiltrotors, an aircraft with two sets of blades that can rotate 90 degrees forward and back, flew over the capital. Beneath them thousands marched on parliament, evoking the women’s marches from across the Atlantic. Placards reading “Pussies Grab Back” bounced to the beat of the Sex Pistols.

A police liaison officer told me authorities had prepared for 100,000 people to attend. Bobbies lined the roads, bodycams glinting but they didn’t need them. A festival atmosphere incorporated newborn demonstrators, miniature ear defenders nestled over their soft skulls.

People blew whistles, banged drums, pots and pans with wooden spoons. Real commotion reverberated down Regent Street in a way that surpassed the NHS march two weeks previous. It sounded like the approach to a football ground on derby day. A visceral moment started by the inflation of an angry balloon model of an infant Trump.

Sheila Menon, one of the artists behind the Trump baby inflatable, told “Whilst representing Trump’s inflated ego, and his thin skin, this is also about opposing his hate-fuelled, misogynistic politics.”

Protestors we spoke to on the day repeatedly made reference to the Trump administration’s treatment of children in its immigration detention centres, separating them from their families, locking them in cages.

As the march converged on Parliament Square, speakers rallied the crowd. But towards the back an unsullied American flag pranced in the wind. Tell-tale red baseball caps congregated below. A man in tank top and Ibiza shorts supped a pint can of Stella while chatting to anti-Trump marchers. The discussion seemed fraught but civil, “This is England” was repeated.

We spoke to one of his colleagues, the Kek guy. He said he wore the flag to “take the piss out of Nazis,” and posited “We don’t actually protest when Putin comes over, or any of the Middle East, so why should we do the same for our strongest allies?”

End of conversation, cue the critique. It was a small blip of excessively American sentiment, that your political opponents are either Nazis or snowflakes, that discourse with them amounts to a betrayal of your team. Still, the fact that 100,000 odd people turned up to exercise their democratic rights, whatever the message, is something from which Britain should take hope.