Photo: CNN

The Dark Side of a Protest

The recent St Andrean protest might have missed the mark.

When it was announced that, in his attempt to fight terrorism, Trump had banned people from seven Muslim countries from entering the USA for 90 days, there was, quite rightly, outrage across the globe. These countries were taken from a list of “terror-prone” countries drawn up during and before the Obama administration. The UN declared it illegal, and so began marches across nations, all protesting against this act which contradicts human rights.

Or so I thought.

Before the St Andrews march, I knew that this kind of thing had happened before; Sixteen countries including Syria, Pakistan and Kuwait, will not admit anyone with an Israeli passport, and Obama banned Iraqis for six months in 2011. Considering the lack of press attention and reaction at the last President’s ban, it is in some ways faith-restoring that people have paid attention to this one.

As we walked to the gathering outside the Union I was filled with a sort of pride – I was proud of my friends for the epic placards they had made, and proud that people from across the world were doing the same thing as us, as if the globe was uniting for a moment.

However, after a few minutes a communist flag was raised above the crowds. Sure, it was an event organised by the Socialist Society, (and perhaps it is worth mentioning here that I personally do not affiliate myself with any particular political party) but that shouldn’t have mattered, because the point we were protesting against was supra-political. It was a matter of human rights.

So I laughed. Then a friend pointed out to me the irony of the Bible quotes on some of the posters being held up against the red flag – anyone who has studied the USSR will know religion’s role (or lack of) in communism. But again, wasn’t this just an example of different people coming together to fight for the same cause?

As the march started, the chants began with “build bridges not walls” (which although anti-Trump, is technically not anti-ban), and “Trump is bad” – all sensible, founded claims. But then people started shouting “F*ck Theresa May” and I thought, Since when was this a political march against the British conservative government?

In all honesty, I have to say that I was actually disappointed that political wrangling got entangled in something which it shouldn’t do. Yes, it is easy to criticise the British Prime minister’s response… but surely that was not why we were there? I know I wasn’t. I was there in the hope that our march, in combination with opposition across the globe, could do something to correct this wrong.

Although politics is undoubtedly involved in matters like these (after all it was enacted by a so-called “politician”) can we please remember that you don’t have to be a liberal to disagree with Trump’s ban? It would be wrong to claim the fight against this act as the fight of the left – it’s really not. Just because someone isn’t a liberal, it doesn’t mean they can recognise when something morally wrong is happening. 

Events like these are crucial in making change, and it’s important for us students to get our voices heard. After all, it is our future that those currently in power are impacting. But, to actually bring about change we shouldn’t confuse issues – this should have been a march about a violation of human rights, not about domestic party politics. Fighting for human rights should not be claimed as a socialist moment, alienating those non-liberals who still want to fight for what is right.

Well done to the Socialist Society for organising the event – it needed to be done. But to those who confuse the left vs. right political war with the fight for human rights; to make a movement effective it needs unity and a common goal. Without that, we lack effective resistance to Trump, damaging our cause. Is it really not possible to take domestic politics out of the matter for once, so that everyone, no matter what their political beliefs, can join together without feeling alienated?

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