US embassies all around the world faced protestors and demonstrators this past weekend and the embassy in London was no exception.
On Sunday, September 16 at 2:30pm around 350 demonstrators showed up in Grosvenor Square right in front of the US Embassy in London to condemn the recent film that insulted the Prophet Mohammed. This protest, which was organized by Hizb ut-Tahrir and sanctioned by British police, remained peaceful and there were no arrests, unlike the demonstration two days prior in the same location. Several speakers took the microphone giving speeches and inciting chants telling America to get out of Muslim lands.
Dozens of unarmed police officers were on site to control the growing crowd. Three armed officers stood guard inside the gate that surrounds the US embassy.
Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir were eager to be heard by the numerous press organizations represented at the demonstration, including Jamal Harwood, a notable London financial consultant, and former chairman of the Hizb ut-Tahrir UK executive board.
This demonstration happened at the same time as many violent demonstrations at US Embassies around the world including an attack on the embassy in Libya that resulted in the death of the US Ambassador and the evacuation of many US Embassies in unstable countries.
A young Muslim man holds a sign while waiting for the demonstration to begin
A crowd of demonstrators surround a speaker in Grosvener Square in front of the US embassy
An armed British police officer stands guard inside the fence surrounding the US Embassy in London during the protest
Many parents brought their children to the protest, most of whom didn’t seem particularly interested
I took these photos and researched this issue as a possible subject for my final photo essay for my Photojournalism in London class. I know it is a bit different than my previous blog posts. Here is more of a personal account of the event:
The embassy looked like any government building in the United States. It is probably the most ugly building in all of the UK, and probably also the most secured building. The British police don’t carry guns, but there were at least three machine gun wielding British police officers inside the gates, standing in defense of the embassy, probably in light of the violent attack on the US embassy in Libya.
The mood of this demonstration did not seem hostile, but I was glad I didn’t choose to wear something that would imply I am American. I had never been one of the only Americans in such close proximity to a group chanting their hatred for my country. Still, I never felt unsafe. These are the types of demonstrations Americans always see on television, but rarely get to witness in person and in a completely objective manner. It was very interesting to hear the speakers for myself, witness the demonstrators praying together before it started, and seeing a wider view than the journalists from major news organizations capture with their cameras.
On top of all this excitement, I found myself on BBC news taking photos when I got home. I haven’t found the video online yet, but if I do I will post a link.