Towards the end of January, a diverse group of Glaswegians descended upon the city centre in a show of solidarity and protest against United States President Donald J. Trump’s Seven Nation – or ‘Muslim’ – Ban, calling for immediate revocation of the order.
Two crowds assembled in two separate locales in City Centre – one before the Donald Dewar statue on the steps of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), and the other, an unaffiliated protest in George Square organised by Hali Amezianne Campbell.
The division between the two protests was due to SUTR’s record of hosting speakers affiliated with the Socialist Worker’s Party (SWP), which in 2013 subjected two women accusing a senior SWP member of rape to a controversial investigation in which organisation officials advised against approaching law enforcement.
Protesters in the George Square crowd, boycotting the SUTR-organised rally because of these controversial connections was the morally-correct choice. Within the ‘Dewar’ crowd, more attendees expressed confusion at the disunion, citing a lack of organisation and arguing the need for unification in light of a cause which they felt called for just that.
George Square drew a predominantly-young demographic of comparable size with over one thousand attendees, but with detrimental acoustics, hardly a PA system to speak of, and no high ground from which to deliver or observe speeches, attendees had considerable trouble hearing – a detriment to group cohesion, morale, and organisation despite colourful signs and welcoming sentiments.
What the crowd did not have trouble hearing was a sudden and jarring boom which rocked City Centre and raised concerns early in the protest. The sound, caused by an exploded gas canister in an alleyway outside of a nearby restaurant, did not deter protesters who continued to gather shortly after the disturbance.
The ‘Dewar’ crowd, with an estimated attendance of 1200 overall participants, benefited from vast distribution of event notifications via social media, and exceeded numbers shown in previous protests organised by the group: the inaugural protest organised by SUTR garnering an estimated eight to nine hundred protesters.
Jordan, a student at the University of Strathclyde, held a large, bright sign which echoed American discontent. When asked to elaborate on the significance of the rallies, he replied without hesitating: “It’s solidarity. If America wants to be the leader of the free world, sometimes we have to stand up. [Remind them] that we’re watching”.
Speakers addressing the crowd delivered passionate addresses, but only those with exceptional diction and projection could be clearly heard due to an insufficient PA system. Chants of “no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!” drew a roar of support from protesters hoisting signs and mingling in bitter defiance of a common enemy.
But among the swarming crowds trying to make sense of the separate rallies, a little face, bundled in hat and coat, held a sign high at the periphery and gazed into the droves of people. His name is Blue, with eyes to match, and as he bravely consented to have his photo taken with permission from his Dad, he peered over the top of the cardboard picket sign he made all by himself, it's big letters and colourful handle conveying a very direct message: “Mr. Trump [,] Everyone is the same change your ways!”
An intraparty division reminiscent of recent American protests, on this particular day, the SUTR organisation won the high ground, but not yet the war as opposing gatherings continue to build support – and the littlest voices made the biggest impact on the future of a worthy cause.