Thousands of pulsating posters colored London’s night sky during what is beginning to seem like the compulsory bi-weekly protest. However, Monday’s demonstration was a phenomenon of civic engagement, as it was first dreamed up by Owen Jones just three days prior to the event.
The sense of urgency was evident in its name as it was called the Emergency Protest against Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban. The executive order President Trump signed is a travel ban from people of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
The executive order was based on a piece of legislation the Obama administration signed back in 2015 called the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. Which restricts the access to the Visa Waiver Program that allows citizens from a list of 38 countries who are going to visit the U.S for less than 90 days to enter without a visa if they have traveled to the previously mentioned seven countries since the first of March 2011 (exceptions apply for diplomatic or military travel servicing VWP countries). Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria are also restricted and had to apply for a tourist visa to visit the United States. It also suspended the US refugee programme.
Even though Trump’s executive order was based on these previous restrictions it sent shock waves around the globe as it exponentially escalated travel constraints with zero notice.
Theresa May’s recent visit to America seemed to create more issues rather than to ease already existing tensions, as her late and sublet remarks against the travel ban infuriated many in the United Kingdom. These frustrations were evident as a large fraction of the chants were aimed at her specifically. “Theresa the appeaser” and “Shame on May” were amongst the most popular.
However enthusiastic the march was, there were clear distinctions between this march and the Women’s March earlier this year. The shift in tone being the most poignant change. At times this march felt like a scene out of V for Vendetta as the odd protester wearing the recognizable Anonymous mask and waving an anarchist flag wandered by. Most of the people seemed to range from students to young professionals which added to the youth in revolt feel of the night. The nocturnal sky contrasted against the smart phones as most marchers, myself included, where busy chronicling the event for our virtual archives and ‘friends’ or ‘followers’.
The technological dependence of the march was evident as it could not have come together in three days without the use of social media. Conversely, the attention placed on ‘sharing’ the march felt at times a little out of place and even vain. Perhaps I noticed this more than ever as my poster featuring a timely meme got plenty of attention. Many people stopped me to ask for pictures of the poster and even with me. I confess my head continued to grow with every click. And though this attention is harmless if not good for the collective morale, the size of the protest noticeably shrank within an hour. Which could also be explained by the official schedule of the event being from 6-8 pm.
An obvious explanation for this change in atmosphere of these marchers is the timing. Though Trump’s young presidency is but weeks old a lot of “un-presidential” things have happened and been said. So, as marches continue they will reflect the changing dynamic between Trump and whoever the “villain” of the week happens to be.
A federal judge in Seattle is poised to be Trump’s next target after issuing a ruling that temporarily blocks his executive order on immigration and refugees, including those holding visas to travel to the United States. Though there have been more court orders on the travel ban U.S District Judge Robart’s ruling temporary stops the executive order.
Press secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement saying that the administration would appeal the judge’s “outrageous order”.
This ruling though positive seems to only be add to the existing confusion at many airports around the U.S. As many seem to be interpreting the ruling differently. This confusion has affected many in their travels. For example, Kjell Magne Bondevik the former Norwegian prime minister was detained for an hour at an airport in Washington because he had an Iranian visa in his passport.
This bewilderment and sense of chaos can be seen in all aspects of the young administration as many leaks from within the White House show. Earlier this week it was revealed that Trump hung up on the prime minister of Australia, one of the United states closet allies, after a 25-minute conversation. Also, a transcript of Trump’s call with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was also leaked, in which Trump supposedly said he was ready to send U.S Troops to Mexico to deal with the ‘bad hombres”. Though these political blunders might seem like comical SNL material they will continue to change the political influence the one almost indisputable position of President of the United States.
By Ana Sofia