There are those, and plenty of them, who are highly critical of the planned demonstration today in central London, but one also has to stop a moment and consider that a little more. In a democracy such as we have in the United Kingdom, it is the right of everybody, should they so feel the need, to demonstrate for or against something. Kevan James takes a look at the events in London as United States President Donald Trump continues with his state visit to the United Kingdom.
President Trump has many critics, both in the UK and the USA but one thing that sets both countries apart from some others is the right of people to show their support or otherwise and in the UK, that includes the right to demonstrate against the US President during his visit here.
Is it 'right' to suggest that so many people are against the President? Perhaps, in the interests of fairness, that's not for me to say. At least not here, not now.
Certainly as I made my way through London's streets this morning, there were plenty of people suitably armed with placards heading for the same place, with even more going about their daily business and one of the most refreshing things about the UK is that, for the most part, whatever their views on Donald Trump, most people, most of the time, will happily chat amiably, sometimes with passion, often with very forceful argument, over whatever the subject may be. But once done, again for the most part, people will agree to disagree. President Trump is without doubt like Marmite - you either like him or you don't; there seems little in between. Having never met the US President, I can't say either way but the fact remains that he is the elected leader of the UK's closest ally. One of the points made in a number of speeches today was that the UK is, or should, also be as close an ally of the EU as it is of the USA, a point that I have made previously and it is also thus a fact that the divisions that are currently present should not be there.
Again I have made my views known before so I shall not repeat them now.
As can be seen in the image to the left, not everything was one-sided at today's demonstration; President Trump was roundly criticised for his tweet regarding London Mayor Sadiq Khan, yet was he not only returning the jibe aimed first?
One comment was that a US President should be above such behaviour and perhaps that is right. But is it not also right that the same should apply to the Mayor of London? It doesn't seem unfair to me.
That politics has descended to the point where insults are routinely traded is rather sad.
Owen Jones (pictured left) is often described as a left-wing firebrand, which may well be true, but having met him today (for the first time) I found him to be approachable, warm and friendly - the reverse of that which is sometimes portrayed. I'll confess to being something of an admirer, even though I disagree with some of what he says. I also however, agree with many of the points he raises.
And this is the point, the whole point. Owen Jones and I may agree on some things, less so on others but we both have the right to express our beliefs.
The same applies to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Again I have never met him (perhaps I should ask for an interview) but once more, and yet again as I have written before, he has been consistent for decades in his views. Nobody can say that they didn't know what they voted for when Corbyn was elected leader of his party.
Oh and by the way, in his speech today, he ran through all the things he wanted to see an end of; discrimination of all kinds and yes he included an end to anti-Semitism. One hopes those concerned were listening.
Today, at least up until the point I left, was just a part what democracy means; the right to have a vote; the right cast it and for whomsoever one feels one should; the right to hold a view and to express that view. And the right to demonstrate.
It is undoubtedly a tribute to the United Kingdom that the very epicentre of the capital city can be brought to a halt, even temporarily, and a large crowd assemble to make their point and do so in as peaceful a manner as today.
The police presence was, understandably, significant but every officer I saw was as polite and helpful as a British bobby is supposed to be. A small crowd, not especially vociferous, had assembled opposite Downing Street, midway along Whitehall, but absent were heavily armed police officers, riot shields and pepper spray in hand. The thin blue line here were the very opposite of intimidating. But they were there, ready, just in case. The shields and spray might have been around somewhere too but out of sight, and hopefully out of mind and need.
Today was a very British way of doing something. And it was democracy at work.
All images Kevan James
© Kevan James 2019