Perhaps somewhat ironically, Donald Trump arrives in Britain on Friday 13th and, naturally, there will be demonstrations and protests against his policies and dare I say, very existence. This is fine. This is what democracy and free speech (a topic hotly discussed on not only this blog but in society as a whole) should be about - scrutinising an official and letting it know that you disagree with them. However, my question here though is, are we overstepping the mark?
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has permitted for a balloon depicting the US President as a baby to fly over Westminster on the opening day of his visit, with a statement on behalf of the mayor saying that he ‘supports the right to peaceful protest and understands that this can take many different forms.’ According to those leading this ‘movement’, over 10,000 people supported this concept, with, at the time of writing, just under £28,000 had been raised via ‘crowdfunding’ to help pay for the inflatable, this seems to be a popular idea.
Through social media and other channels, many have come out in favour of this form of protesting, saying that it is not only comical, but necessary to protest against Trump. Personally, I feel as though this is absolutely right as I am all for free speech and peaceful protest, how can one not be with the controversy of such a president? However, I can’t help but feel apprehensive about this for two reasons. Firstly, one must hope that this does not damage the UK’s global reputation or even relationship with the US - our major ally. This is especially due to the climate post-Brexit where trade deals with those such as the US are vital and I would hate to see this seemingly harmless protest backfire with financial repercussions - you can’t rule anything out with Donald Trump! In addition to this, I cannot help but imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. For example, say the Queen visited America and was publicly ridiculed and mocked, would we, as Britons, not feel offended by such an act, however innocent it may seem? Now you may not value a ‘connection’ with another nation such as the USA, but for me, I would not want to risk that.
Regardless of my view on this protest, I cannot say I would help fund its creation, for the reasons I have just stated. However, as I have also claimed, free speech is a cornerstone principle of a modern-day, democratic society and even though I may not outright support this act, I simply cannot wish for it to be blocked - if Britain wants to protest, let it do so. Interestingly though, some have had the idea of creating a similar balloon for Sadiq Khan, which, at the time of writing, has raised over £37,000 in less time than the Trump equivalent, perhaps showing which figure has the greatest opposition. This is most certainly something we should keep an eye on to see if Mr Khan really does support his own notion of peaceful protest, even if it is directed at him.
- BBC News