The past year has felt devastating for many of us fighting for a more equal, just and progressive future. The rise of Trump and Brexit have seen mainstream parties embrace the divisive politics of the far-right. Latent racism, Islamophobia and prejudice have, of course, been endemic in our societies for a long time. But the hostility migrants and minorities now face is frightening and explicit. Discriminatory abuse has become increasingly commonplace, with a 42% rise in hate crime in the month following the EU referendum and a 67% rise in hate crimes against Muslim Americans in the month following Trump’s election.
After months of fear and trepidation, Trump’s inauguration day was the symbolic apex of this slide towards fascism: a mainstream resurrection of the fear, hatred and prejudice which has blighted human history. But this malignant breed of politics is not going unchallenged. For many, Trump’s election has simply magnified the need for strong, progressive and unified resistance.
It was in this spirit that the Bridges Not Walls initiative was dreamed up: a collective drop of protest banners from iconic bridges, all under a single unifying umbrella. The action was taken on board across London, the UK and in several other cities across the world.
Jawaab took part in the ‘Unite Against Islamophobia’ banner drop on Southwark bridge. It was an early start to the day: a 6am wake-up call, followed by a 7.30am meet-up on a bitterly cold morning. But the sun shone and our banner was successfully unleashed (a surprisingly technical feat) before the clock struck 9. Eight other bridges on the Thames also brandished their banners across the river, with slogans including: ’BLACK LIVES MATTER’, ‘MIGRANTS WELCOME HERE’ and ‘THERE IS NO PLANET B’. The morning was bright, hopeful and loud. Fittingly, Trump’s parade stayed a dim and drizzly affair.
The Bridges Not Walls protest was, by all accounts, a huge success. Photos, tweets and news articles about the London banners were shared worldwide, with the hashtag #BridgesNotWalls one of the top 5 global trends that day. It was great being part of such a broad collective of progressive voices. It carried us through the day–past Trump's bullish talk of exclusionary nationalism, past the egregious lies about crowd-size, past the government’s online erasure of climate change and LGBT-equality reports.
But while that morning was full of wide-eyed optimism and a powerful sense of solidarity, the past two weeks have driven home the very real threats that marginalised communities will now face across the world. Trump has banned nationals from 7 Muslim countries and permanently barred entry to Syrian refugees. He has scrapped the Affordable Care Act. He has cut funding for overseas family planning NGOs. He has ordered the ‘immediate construction’ of the infamous Mexico-US border wall. And our Prime Minister has effectively green-lighted this deluge of discriminatory acts, ushering in a worryingly close US-UK relationship.
Beyond the bleary-eyed haze of Bridges Not Walls, the Women’s Marches, anti-Islamophobia protests and the seemingly endless comic potential of #AlternativeFacts, we must keep the struggle alive. 10 days of protests, banners and memes is commendable, but we must continue to resist the dangerous onslaught of oppressive politics worldwide. We must show our full and flagrant support for black and brown bodies, for Muslims, migrants, refugees, women and LGBT communities. We must have uncomfortable conversations with those we disagree with. We must lobby, petition, march, write and shout loudly. We must fundraise / volunteer for/ support the organisations resisting hateful and divisive policies.
And in the spirit of practical resistance, as well as hopeful rhetoric, here is a non-exhaustive of some ways to help:
And for more ideas, the following links should provide you with plenty of inspiration!