Dublin was late to the anti-Trump party but the crowds who gathered on day two of the US president’s visit made their presence felt. The Trump baby blimp bobbed about overhead at the Garden of Remembrance, surviving a sudden flash of lightning as dark clouds rolled in, rumbling with thunder as they came.
Darker they got and colder it felt as the protest progressed until the sky exploded in heavy rain. June? The climate action placards suddenly seemed all the more apt.
Climate action was just one of the many issues raised on the placards that came from both the professionally printed political party stash and the cardboard and crayon variety assembled overnight.
The rally of about 1,500 people was organised by the recently formed Stop Trump Ireland coalition of around 40 campaign groups. Migrant rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, peace, neutrality, equality, anti-racism, pro-Palestine — all-comers with all sorts of concerns were united in their opposition to one Donald J.
One couple in the crowd were worried that even such unity could be polarising. Tom and Marlene from California who were on holiday in Ireland hadn’t protested much since the 1960s and Marlene said they were pleased to have the chance to show their opposition here. However, Tom was concerned about the tone.
I think some of the rhetoric is sowing the seeds of anti- Semitism. We’ve been to Israel and the West Bank and the situation is not helped by rhetoric.
"But that’s how it is with Trump. He creates such an atmosphere of hatred that it’s hard for even reasonable people to stay calm and respectful.”
For Marlene, it was Trump’s attitude to migrants that bothered her most.
“We have a huge Mexican population in California that we are proud of. They are people that we love so his racism hurts us,” she said. Hurt and anger were obvious in the speeches that preceded the march along O’Connell St but it wouldn’t be an Irish protest if there wasn’t humour.
“I hear you’re a racist now, Donald” remarked the placard of a Fr Ted fan, while another couldn’t resist declaring: “Fear oráiste le ceann cabáiste”.
One poster, declaring Trump, in his own terms, a “stone cold loser”, was held aloft by two little girls, the seven-year-old twin daughters of Dina Coughlan who moved from New Jersey to Drumshambo, Co Leitrim, with her locally born husband five years ago.
“It was a bit of a journey but I think it was important to come here and make our views known,” she said.
“It’s strange to me to see the US going backwards while Ireland is becoming so much more progressive. This is the kind of country where I want my girls to grow up. I hope things will change in the US but the feeling there is quite depressed now. I know Trump will say everything’s great, the economy’s better than ever, but that’s for the 1%.”
Three young workmates were leaving Trump in no doubt about how they felt. “G’way from me ya bleedin’ dope,” their placard read. “I wanted him to be in no doubt it was from an Irishwoman and that this is how women in this country feel about him,” said Laura Matthews from Co Wicklow. “We’re a small country but we’re not intimidated by him.”
Among the protesters was government minister Finian McGrath, who told the Irish Examiner his presence was about sending a strong message in protest at the US president’s policies. Mr McGrath said Trump was “unprofessional and un-presidential” in his remarks about Brexit and the border on Wednesday and said his views were “dangerous” for Ireland.