On an average Thursday, Scott McGlynn can be found transforming his clients’ hair at the salon he manages in Cardiff. This week, however, he’ll be boarding a train to London – one of an estimated 50,000 people preparing to march through the capital on Friday to protest the UK visit of President Donald Trump.
“Trump now says he has no problems with the LGBT community – but he’s said and done things in the past that makes it seem like he does,” the 31-year-old tells HuffPost UK. “I want to support young gay kids over in America. I wouldn’t want to be over there if I was a young person and I hadn’t come out yet - I struggled with that here growing up, but I think with him as a president, it would be even worse.”
McGlynn, an LGBT activist, has taken three days off work to ensure he misses none of the action – and he’s not alone in choosing to spend precious holiday on protesting the president.
Jim Scott, 41, has organised one of the many coaches which will ferry people across the country to protests. The 49 seater-coach from Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire to London was soon booked up, says the tree surgeon. Scott, who is part of the Pembrokeshire Stop the War Coalition, has taken the day off on Friday: “I will be in London to say no to the special arrangement between the UK and US and no to any privatisation or selling-off of our NHS,” he says.
As well as the march in the capital – which will see a giant inflatable Trump baby flown over Parliament Square – groups of protestors are set to gather from Thursday through to Sunday in locations across the UK, including Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Swansea, Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Amie Sparrow, a PR manager, and Posey Furnish, who works for a national disability charity, will be among those marching in London. Both American expats living in London, they are using their annual leave to protest Trump. “I shouldn’t have to waste a precious day off on him, but it’s too important to me as a dual citizen not to add my voice,” says Furnish.
Sparrow, originally from Chicago, used her absentee vote for Hilary Clinton and says she’s since felt “powerless” watching Trump’s presidency unfold. “I want to go to bed knowing that I did everything I could to stand up for the rights of women, the LGBT+ community, immigrants and minorities,” the 38-year-old says.
“I want to show people around the world that Trump is not America. America is more than the vile hatred that man spews. We do not all think like him. My country is better than that man. I am better than that man.”
The campaigners behind Women’s March London have been encouraging people to march against Trump. Gemma Olivier, a 35-year-old psychologist, and Jane Gray, a 48-year-old HR manager, have both taken time off to join them.
“We have to stand up on behalf of ourselves and other women in America and worldwide to show that we will not sit quietly and allow our hard fought rights to be eroded through legislation, hate speech or any other direct or indirect attacks on our bodies or our humanity,” says Olivier.
Gray, who works near the march’s starting point, has booked a half day off and will be attending with her 14-year-old daughter, Grace, who has the afternoon off school following a class trip. She’s also considering taking her 11-year-old daughter out of school for the event.
“Grace has just started an online blog to promote feminism against what she feels is an attack on women from Trump and the growing right wing rhetoric taking a hold over there,” Gray explains. “I want my girls to feel empowered as they grow into young women, feminism is not a dirty word. My husband is a proud feminist.”
Accountant Rohan Thamotheram has been prompted to take a day off work and protest by the issue of immigration. The 60-year-old moved to the UK from Sri Lanka as a child in 1962.
“Akin to living the American dream, my son went to Cambridge University and now works for one of the top four accountancy firms,” Thamotheram explains. “Trump’s policy towards immigration into the US across its southern border is sadistically cruel, almost medieval in its execution.”
Despite their best efforts, some protesters are skeptical about the likely impact of the marches and demonstrations.
George Richardson, 25, who works in sales, says he’s not expecting much of a response from the President: “While I’m excited to protest and can’t wait to have my voice heard alongside many others, I don’t expect that much will happen as a result. I do hope that Trump gets the message that he isn’t welcome here, but I think it will probably all culminate in a sulky Twitter rant.”
But even if Trump himself is unaffected, Richardson does thinks the protests will have an impact in the UK. “[Because] they’re so close to the Pride protests, they will show that love should always come before hatred and that the citizens of the United Kingdom will never suffer a fascist like Trump,” he says.
Sparrow, too, is not holding high hopes for how the protests will be received in the US. “I really hope the protest will do more than just give attention to an attention-hungry President,” she says. “I fear that the protest will be just dismissed in the media back home. But, I’ve decided that it’s not about what it will do to change anything, it’s about my need to stand up for what I believe in.”