Wed 26 February 2020

The Women’s Peace Council is inviting everyone to share a ‘People’s Banquet’ in Parliament Square as an alternative form of protest to Donald Trump’s state visit.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of us took to the streets to protest over Donald Trump’s visit. Brash banners and noise shouted our disapproval – and that was only for a working trip. We can expect an even greater roar from the streets for the President’s upcoming state visit next month – but perhaps this isn’t the most effective way to go about it?  

The newly formed Women’s Peace Council, which includes leading members of the Women’s March and other women’s organisations, have created a very different event to show disapproval of the state visit.

For next month, it is planning to maintain a dignified silence and instead host a People’s Banquet ‘in love and solidarity’ in Parliament Square, to send a strong message of unity and hope to counteract the politics of hate and division characterised by Trump.

Interestingly, the last Women’s Peace Council campaigned for a negotiated end to the First World War.

This approach is in keeping with the Trump’s predecessor’s approach. As the former First Lady Michelle Obama famously said: “When they go low, we go high”.

The Women’s Peace Council will be creating a moment for peace just before sundown, when everyone will be encouraged to join hands and stand together. Attendees will then be invited to bring food and share it with others and, in doing so, reclaim this space outside Parliament for the people.

“The idea is to create a moment that puts people at the centre,” Zakia Bassou, from the council, explained. “We feel this is more subversive as it puts people in the spotlight, not Trump.”

The People’s Banquet has been designed to represent all groups (unlike much of Trump’s rhetoric and policies) including members of the LBGTQ and Muslim Communities.

The Banquet will also be the inauguration of the Women’s Peace Council.

Interestingly, the last one campaigned for a negotiated end to the First World War and its main membership came from the Freedom League, made up of suffragettes. If they had been successful, countless lives could have been saved.

Tiaras are encouraged as this is a banquet.

Although still very new and evolving, the Women’s Peace Council has a strong vision of the type of peace it wants to promote and achieve.

It sees peace as far more than just the absence of conflict between nation states. The group believes peace should allow people the conditions to fulfil their potential and build capacity. Solidarity is key, with the banquet a tangible expression of this.

The Women’s Peace Council is unsure of how many people will attend the People’s Banquet, but it laying on an evening of entertainment including the Gobbledegook Theatre, which will be creating a mass artwork of bunting with messages written by those attending. Families and children are encouraged to go along and people can bring placards in keeping with the community spirit and solidarity of the event, but not specifically anti-Trump.

We feel this is more subversive as it puts people in the spotlight not Trump

Zakia Bassou, Women’s Peace Council

The rally part of the evening will finish at dusk, but people are encouraged to stay and eat after this, especially as it is Ramadan. Attendees are asked to bring a white flower to symbolise peace and dress in blue, which is the colour of the Women’s Peace Council. Tiaras are encouraged as this is a banquet. During the evening, everyone will be asked to make personal pledges to support peace and solidarity.

It will be interesting to see whether this more community-based and thoughtful approach to countering Trump’s politics of hate will have a more lasting effect than just another street protest – and whether it will get the media’s attention.

The Women’s Peace Council will be hosting the People’s Banquet at Parliament Square, Westminster, at 7pm, on 3 June.

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