Hundreds took to Exeter’s streets last night in an emergency demo against US president Donald Trump’s newly imposed “Anti-Muslim Ban.”
The peaceful protest – part of a national demonstration against the ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the States – began in Exeter’s Bedford Square at 6pm.
A succession of speakers took to the stage to address protestors. One speaker from Virginia told the crowds:
I want to apologise for my country: not just for Trump, but for all the people who voted for him and let this happen
“I’m disappointed, not only in the people in my family who voted for Trump, but in the hundreds of people who have power to stand up against him,” he continued. “Like the Prime Minister here, but also back in Congress.”
Co-organiser Baraa Ehssan Kouja took to Facebook after the event to thank attendees, describing it as an “amazing and very heartwarming turn out.”
“Let’s try to break the stereotypes,” he said during the demonstration. “We are all one, all united.” Asking the crowd to shout as one, “Exeter stands together,” directed protestors wanting to help to charity From Syria With Love. He and co-organisers Malaka Mohammed and Lizzie Harman also urged to sign and share the now-famous Government petition calling for Trump’s state visit to the UK to be cancelled.
Any mention of British Prime Minister Theresa May sparked widespread booing from the crowd throughout the night – with multiple signs condemning May’s apparent alignment with Trump. “Partners in hate?” one asked, while another quipped: “Theresa and Trump sitting in a tree, F-A-S-C-I-S-T.” Other signs simply read “Resist,” or “We are together.”
But it wasn’t just Trump and May coming under fire. “We have a choice […] the politics of hate or the politics of unity,” one speaker insisted. Likening Syrian refugees to those escaping anti-Semitic persecution under the Nazi Party, he remarked that many Exeter citizens have spoken against taking in refugees – and asked: “why don’t they want them to come here? Because they’re foreign. Because they’re different.”
Have you ever read a history book and thought: ‘I wish I was alive then, so I could have stopped this from happening’?” one speaker asked. “Well, one day our grandchildren will read about this – and they will either say ‘I wish I was alive then’ or they will be proud of you for standing up against injustice.”
“We stand in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s decision,” crowds heard, “and against Theresa May aligning herself with Trump.”
Meanwhile, cheers erupted at the name of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “Ben Bradshaw has supported this campaign; your Exeter City Labour Councillors support this campaign,” crowds were told.
Students, local residents and visitors stood together in protest, many posting on social media under the hashtag #StandAsOneExeter. One visitor from North Devon told Exeposé that the South West has a “reputation for being quite Conservative,” meaning “Devon in particular really needs to stand up for what’s right.
“There are a lot of people here who believe in the right things,” she said, “so we really need to make our voices heard.”