Donald Trump’s visit to the UK could see the largest public demonstrations for decades. Protests against the US president's visit are expected to be huge, at least on the scale of the demonstrations against the Iraq War and George Bush in the mid-2000s – perhaps bigger.
Either way, it's not long until we find out. On Tuesday, the US ambassador to the UK confirmed that the visit has been pencilled in for early 2018.
While it’s likely the vast majority of those gathering will be telling him to go home, Trump isn’t universally disliked in the UK. He's popular among the UK’s right and far-right for the Islamophobic stances he’s taken so far – such as his travel ban on seven Muslim countries – and some British anti-Muslim activists have been planning demonstrations of their own ahead of his visit, to show their appreciation.
Following the news that a date looks set, a Twitter account called "I am British" has been posting videos building for a pro-Trump rally. The account's bio is "A diverse political movement STANDING UP for #Britishvalues". The man who appears in the videos, Rikki Doolan, is a personal assistant to Uebert Angel, a self-described prophet and business coach.
When not hyping Trump’s visit or retweeting his boss’s business ventures, Doolan posts tweets like "No SIN can OUTWEIGH the sacrifice of JESUS" and "What an HONOUR and BLESSING it is to SERVE God and his Prophet".
Doolan has been tweeting about such a march since July, and the fact these tweets have been getting thousands of retweets suggests there's an appetite for a demonstration. Britain First, the fascist group that Donald Trump controversially retweeted, confirmed to VICE that "Britain First and I Am British are jointly hosting the march". This was later denied by Doolan, who called this a "misunderstanding".
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Elsewhere, the Football Lads Alliance has shared a Facebook event for another pro-Trump protest on their page. Several hundred people have said they’re going.
After I started researching this article, Luke Nash-Jones – a British "alt-light" figure who describes himself as the "Prince of Kekistan" (alt-light is a new current of the right that doesn't support ethnic-nationalism) – got in touch to tell me about an "actual pro-Trump rally" with no involvement from Britain First, listing a number of right-wing organisations, individuals and front groups that would be backing it.
Nash-Jones told me the protest he was organising was being backed by Mo Fyaz – an ex-Muslim who speaks at protests organised by Tommy Robinson – and Winston McKenzie, the former Ukip candidate who made homophobic comments in Celebrity Big Brother.
He also said two groups linked to the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) – which has been drawing tens of thousands of people onto the streets to protest against Islamist extremism – will be backing his protest. One of these was a group called "Chelsea Football Lads". I asked if this included any of the notorious Chelsea Headhunters firm, and Nash-Jones replied: "Hooligans firms are absolutely not invited and we certainly are not inviting Headhunters. Only peaceful football lads, from any team, with no convictions are welcomed to join us."
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What the "actual" pro-Trump demonstration could look like is difficult to say at this point. As Nash-Jones pointed out in his email, "Every man and his dog is adding Facebook events for a march."
Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson has expressed his support for the pro-Trump demos, asking his Twitter followers if they would stand with him in opposing "left-wing fascists", who he claims are planning to riot when Trump visits the UK.
Trump’s inauguration was met with violence when a left-wing "black bloc" torched a limousine and ran around knocking over trashcans in protest. 194 alleged participants are now facing 60 years in jail. It wouldn’t be a shock if some members of the far-left use Trump’s visit to vent their anger on street furniture, but the majority of the anti-Trump protesters are unlikely to kick any bins or threaten any oversized cars.
If the UK’s far-right is planning on protesting on the same day, it makes the chance of political violence exploding onto the capital’s streets a lot more likely, especially as Robinson is using his growing social media profile to rally supporters.
Shortly after the Manchester terror attack, Robinson organised a protest which saw thousands take to the streets with only a week’s notice. If thousands of far-right activists decide to protest in support of Trump at the same time and in close proximity to hundreds of thousands of people who don’t want Trump in the UK, things could get pretty chaotic.