At 8:15 in London this morning I emerged from the subway at Westminster. It was bitterly cold, but activists involved in the movement Bridges Not Walls were getting ready to drop a banner reading “Migrants Welcome Here,” one of the 10 banners that would be unfurled from London bridges on the occasion of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. The protest aimed to “defy the rise of the far right and demonstrate solidarity with all those threatened by the politics of fear and hatred.”
The night before, the bridge had been closed, because a World War II bomb had been discovered in the Thames, and there had been a possibility of canceling the action. It would have been too symbolically perfect if the dredged-up past influenced the present (yet again), but the bridge was reopened, and the group of mainly young activists were already passing the leaflets and flowers to the tourists and passers-by when I arrived.
I met my old friend Zrinka Bralo, the executive director of Migrants Organize and one of the coordinators. She introduced me to Sarah, an activist from Citizens U.K., who had a baby strapped to her chest. There was Paul, wrapped in a Mexican flag. Police stood around in their bright yellow vests, smiling and posing for selfies with tourists. Two women held an American flag. I talked to one of them. Mary Lou, from Pennsylvania, told me she had nothing but sympathies for migrants and refugees, as she had spent half of her life in London. She was “apprehensive” about Trump’s program and was “in constant dialogue” with her elected representative in Pennsylvania.
At 8:40 or so, the banner was dropped at the Westminster Bridge, while nine other bridges, and more than 200 around the world, offered similar messages of resistance to Trumpian malice. Wearing a shirt saying “I am an immigrant,” the Big Ben behind her back, Zrinka spoke to a Sky TV camera about the necessity of resistance to hate and fear, lies and division. It was the first day of the Trumpian era, with many more to come, all of them featuring struggle, all over the world.
Aleksandar Hemon is the author of the novel “The Making of Zombie Wars.”