A Very British Protest

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LONDON-The first protestors began assembling on Portland Place, just outside the BBC’s London headquarters, on Friday morning. They carried signs. “FEED HIM TO THE CORGIS,” said one. “TANGERINE TYRANT,” read another. “BOLLOCKS TO TRUMP.” “IKEA HAS BETTER CABINETS.” “TRUMP IS A TOSSER.” “I HAD TO FIX MY PRINTER FOR THIS.”

The people gathering to march in protest of President Trump’s U.K. visit had serious intentions, namely to stand up against a leader who’s remarkably unpopular in Britain. But that didn’t mean the tone was totally somber. As the first march of the day, the #BringTheNoise rally, began at 12 p.m., crowds of mostly women carried placards and banners sporting a variety of messages, each more irreverent than the last. “SUPER CALLOUS FRAGILE RACIST SEXIST LYING POTUS,” blared one. “HANDS OFF DONALD,” read another, the words superimposed over a picture of Queen Elizabeth with a red cross over her lower half. One more polite sign, painstakingly crafted on pale-blue paper with floral appliqués and Liberty-print lettering, read “NASTY ENGLISH LADIES AGAINST TRUMP’S MISOGYNY, RACISM, HOMOPHOBIA, ABLEISM, TRANSPHOBIA, ISLAMOPHOBIA.”

As far as pastimes go, there are few things that thrill the British more than the art of creative profanity. It’s a tradition that dates back at least to Shakespeare. So Trump’s visit to the U.K. presented the opportunity for many to protest, but also to exercise a little national pride while doing so. Kate Bottley, a vicar who wore her clerical collar on the march, carried a sign that read “I CAME HERE TO DRINK TEA AND FIGHT FASCISM AND I’VE JUST FINISHED MY TEA.” The slogan was a reference to a quote from the British sitcom The I.T. Crowd, she said, but also an attempt to keep things dignified. “You know that things are bad when the clergy are getting grumpy about it,” she said. “But one of the things that’s amazing about today is how peaceful it is. There’s a lovely, celebratory atmosphere. It’s really brought people together.”

As the earlier women’s march moved down Regent Street toward Trafalgar Square, protestors began gathering for the day’s main event, a larger and more charged assembly of people. The tone, though, remained jovial. One marcher dragged along a speaker blasting the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen.” Among protestors marching for Palestine and a group of women dressed in red gowns and white bonnets as a nod to The Handmaid’s Tale, a man carried a sign saying, “GO HOME YOU RACIST COCKWOMBLE.” A group of a dozen people in green gowns with white sashes pulled a display case inside of which was a wax model of Oprah Winfrey wearing a campaign rosette. “OPRAH FOR PRESIDENT 2020,” the case read, and in smaller letters, “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS.”