‘It’s not about Trump’: mixed emotions in Portsmouth over president’s D-day visit

Police gearing up for demonstrates as frights flourish trip will detract from ex-servicemen on 75 th anniversary

Over the decades, the city of Portsmouth has hosted D-day anniversary events with honour and sensitivity. Its citizens have fond memories of gratify veterans who launched from the port in June 1944 and of rubbing shoulders with sovereigns and global leader at honour ceremonies.

Ahead of this year’s events there is excitement and respect as the city prepares to welcome elderly survivors on the 75 th remembrance of D-day, on 6 June, but for many it is tinged with concern and fury at the presence of one particular visitor, Donald Trump.

” He is bound to change the feel of the episode ,” said office worker Si Jones, who was picnicking in the sunshine next to the military-style metal fence that has been erected around a section of Southsea Common in the city to protect Trump and other world leaders.

” That obstacle parts it up certainly. It’s as if he’s bringing his own wall to keep people out. The trouble is that he always sucks up the attention wherever he goes and this event clearly shouldn’t be about him .”

Portsmouth will take centre stage on 5 June, the day before the actual anniversary. A national commemorating happening, run by the government, will be held on Southsea Common in the presence of more than 300 D-day veterans.

The story of the Normandy brings will be told through commendations, music and armed displays, with veterans too boarding a ship to France to attend affairs there.

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A medal celebrating Pte Robert Johns, believed to be the youngest British soldier to die in world war ii. His niece, Jenny Ward, left, says she is’ not highly fond’ of Donald Trump. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/ PA

Members of the public will be encouraged to watch the event from huge screens on the common but many have said they will not bother, either because they disapprove of Trump or feel excluded by the ring of steel.

The leader of Portsmouth city council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, drew headlines around the world when he argued that Trump’s presence would make the focus away from the most important beings: the veterans and their families.

As the occurrence selects nears, the council has tried to demonstrate finesse. Steve Pitt, the cabinet member for culture and metropolitan growth and a Southsea resident, said here commemoration shall not be required to be be about personalities.

” The issue is visit heads of state who are representing their countries. Whatever my personal views about Donald J Trump, the facts of the case is he is the president of the USA and it is the office of the USA president that is commemorating and celebrating 75 years since D-day .”

Pitt agreed previous anniversaries had been much more all-inclusive; many inhabitants, for example, recollected with fondness Bill Clinton’s visit for the 50 th anniversary, where reference is charmed the crowds.

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Donald Trump with the Queen and the first lady, Melania Trump, on his last UK visit in 2018. Photograph: Steve Parson/ AFP/ Getty Images

However, Pitt vowed the metal barrier was not just for Trump.” It’s not about person or persons. Other heads of state will be here. The life has changed a lot in the 25 years since Bill Clinton came, and not for the better. The protection situation is very different .”

At the Fratton community centre, members of groups, including Stand Up To Racism, Love Music Hate Racism and the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, were discussing plans for a show under the banner Together Against Trump.

” This is no sit for Trump ,” said Waldemar Maxim, who came to Portsmouth from Germany as the status of refugees nearly 60 years ago.” I’m not saying Trump is a fascist but he has created an environment for despots to operate in. D-day was all about fighting autocrats .”

Frances Alyson, who works with refugees and asylum seekers, withdrew with fondness a previous Southsea Common event when the Queen attended and how roused babes were to be able to get close to her.” That won’t happen this time .”

Claire Cahm was preparing to set up an anti-Trump banner on the ceiling of her room, in the hope it catches his eye as he flies in.” I don’t suppose he will see it but it’s my gesture ,” she said.” We all have to do what we can. I hope it’s rainy and stormy so his whisker flies around everywhere .”

JR, a Californian studying international relations and politics in Portsmouth, said he wouldn’t be attending.” I various kinds of half came here to get away from the guy ,” he said.” It feels a bit creepy that he’s followed me here. I know got a couple of other Americans who are interested in running and reading him. But most people I hang out with will be elsewhere that day .”

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Bill Clinton, who was a hit with Portsmouth regionals on a call to stigmatize the 50 th D-day anniversary, with the then prime minister John Major. Photograph: Neil Munns/ PA

A petition from Together Against Trump, calling for his invitation to Portsmouth to be cancelled, has attracted more than 47,000 signatures- but the group accepts its chore is a delicate one.

They want to protest against the US president but do not want to risk their target appearing to be the veterans, so they are planning to hold their rally a couple of miles from the common, in Guildhall Square. They will sing carols, draw communications and lay a wreath.

Other groups may not have the same hesitation and Hampshire police is gearing up to deal with opponents from across the UK on the common. There are bound to be some who try to get as near the “Trump wall” as they can.

Not all Portsmouth locals are against Trump, of course. Sam, who has just opened the Coffee Cabin on the common, close to the wall, was more conciliatory.” Trump is controversial but at least he’ll bring more attention to the city. And more business for us .”

And the council is keen to point out it’s not all about Trump, with many other non-government events and projects to mark the anniversary .

One moving project is the setting up of 119 medals in recollection of the regional men who died on D-day. The medals are set up at, or as near as possible, to the homes they left in 1944.

Among them is a plaque, in Jervis Road, to Pte Robert Johns, who died in France aged 16 and is believed to have been the youngest British soldier to die in the second world war.

” It’s a extremely touching homage ,” said Johns’ niece, Jenny Ward, who will attend the D-day event on the common.” I think it will be an emotional daytime. It’s a big thing for Portsmouth .”

She said the veterans’ Facebook group she was part of was fussing with chat about Trump.” I’m not awfully fond of him. I think it’s all the barricades people have taken offence over. The downside is the security but as chairman of the USA he has a right happening there .”

John Duke, 98, one of the veterans who will be at the episode, agrees.” It’s important we retain what happened ,” he said. Asked what his abiding memory was, Duke said:” Most of the time I was wondering whether I would make it or not. My main thought was to carry on with the job and hope it would work out .”

He acquires not everyone is a fan of Trump.” But I think it’s good that he “il be there”. They are our great allies and he is the president of one of the greatest people in the world .”

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ uk-news/ 2019/ may/ 31/ its-not-about-trump-mixed-emotions-in-portsmouth-over-presidents-d-day-visit

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