Scores of Britons have staged demonstrations against Donald Trump across the UK, as members of Parliament debated the US president’s planned state visit.
Organized by the Stop Trump Coalition and campaign group One Day Without Us, the Monday protests drew thousands of people who carried signs that read: "No to racism; no to Trump."
Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh were among the cities that held protests. Some 20,000 people were expected to partake in the event, according to the organizers.
The protests were an extension of the Day Without Immigrants protests against Trump in the US, where businesses run by foreign-born citizens temporarily closed.
Addressing the crowd was Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who condemned the new US administration’s “dark shadow of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.”
“We know the values that Trump represents. With Donald Trump, you don't have to look into a crystal ball, you can read the book,” she said.
“He was supported in his presidential campaign by white supremacists,” Abbot added. "And even in the first weeks of his presidency he has had a viscerally anti-immigrant line.”
Trump has come under fire for taking sweeping actions against immigration to the US.
Since taking office on January 20, he has ordered the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico while authorizing an entry ban against people from seven Muslim countries. The order was brought to halt by a federal judge.
In London, people gathered at in parliament Square, while lawmakers were inside debating Trump’s state later this year.
MPs divided over Trump’s visit
The debate about the visit left the British parliament in disarray, with many MPs calling on the government to either rescind the invitation or downgrade it.
The three-hour debate was held on Monday, after some 1.8 million Britons signed a petition against the offer, which was extended to Trump by Prime Minister Theresa May on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II.
The heated exchange saw Tory lawmakers attempting to fend off ferocious attacks against Trump by left-wing MPs from Labour Party, Green Party and Scottish National Party (SNP).
Opponents rage against Trump
The symbolic discussion was opened by Labour MP Paul Flynn, who accused Trump of acting “like a petulant child” and said the invitation gives the impression that London approves of that behavior.
Flynn also called for the state visit to be watered down to an official visit, a significant downgrade since the former is hosted by the queen and involves a state banquet and an address to both Houses of Parliament.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been the only American presidents to receive the offer after waiting 28 and 32 months in to their receive the offer, Trump was given one only a week after taking office.
David Lammy, also from Labour, said while Trump’s visit was expected, a state visit would mean London was ready to “abandon all its principles.”
“We didn't do this for [John F.] Kennedy, we didn't do this for [Harry] Truman, we didn't do this for [Donald] Reagan, but for this man ... we say, 'Please come and we will lay on everything, because we are so desperate for your company,'” he said. “I think this country is greater than that.”
Labour MP Catherine West, a shadow Foreign Office minister, criticized Trump travel ban against Muslims and said proceeding with the state visit would send the wrong message to the White House.
Labour MP Dawn Butler said it is often said that when America sneezes, Europe catches a cold. However, the US has a “pretty nasty virus” today, she noted.
Tories respond to critics
Meanwhile, Tory MP Nigel Evans told the Manhattan billionaire’s critics to "get over it" because plans for the state visit would remain in place.
MP Simon Burns, also a Tory, said the visit should go ahead to preserve the close links between London and Washington.
"America is our greatest ally. It has been for a considerable amount of time," he said. "It has stood by us, shoulder to shoulder, in our hour of need, as we did in their hour of need, particularly during 9/11."
Government not giving in
Alan Duncan, the deputy foreign secretary, said on the behalf of the government that state visits are an important weapon in UK’s political armory.
“We believe we should use all the tools at our disposal to build common ground with President Trump,” he argued.
The session ended with no votes, leaving the final decision to May and her government.
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