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Build bridges, not walls

Dyfi Bridge banner drop: ‘We say build communities, build bridges and build a better, fairer world’

On the Rheidol footbridge in Aberystwyth: ‘We need bridges; you can’t cross a river on a wall’ (Pic. Lotte Reimer)

the older people. I guess they've seen all this divisive hate-building before! In the end, we had Welsh and

English, Quakers, Amnesty supporters, and a priest from the local parish came down. Lampeter and Ceredigion has a great history of inclusivity and reaching out towards other communities. I want to defend and celebrate that tradition!"

AS THE USA prepared for the

inauguration of right-wing populist President Donald J Trump as its 45th President last Friday (Jan 20), people in Aberystwyth, Machynlleth and Lampeter joined thousands across the world in banner-drops as part of the Bridges Not Walls initiative. In Aberystwyth at 11am on a fine

morning, more than 30 people tuned up for a banner drop from the university footbridge over Penglais Hill. Participants included Mayor Brendan Somers and his good lady wife, Glynis, happily recovered after being taken ill recently and receiving ‘exceptional’ treatment in Bronglais Hospital. Some participants later moved on to restage the banner-drop on the politically iconic Trefechan Bridge and on the footbridge over the Rheidol a little further upstream. ‘Comment of the day’ was passed during this final action when an 89-year-old woman agreed with the sentiment of the banner and told participants: "We need bridges; you can't cross a river on a wall."

#BRIDGESNOTWALLS The call for action came from

Bridges Not Walls, an unprecedented partnership between grassroots activists and campaigners working on a range of different issues that has sprung up in response to Donald Trump’s US election victory. Bridges Not Walls was inspired by Trump’s widely derided election pledge to build a vast wall between the US and Mexico to prevent Hispanic immigrants from crossing the border. Over 140 groups registered to take part in actions on bridges across the UK, with a large crowd gathering on Westminster Bridge in London. Bridges Not Walls report that there were over 250 banner drops from

Kelvin Mason

bridges across five continents. Nona Hurkmans, Bridges not

Walls spokesperson, said: "On Trump’s inauguration day, we’re taking action to show our support for groups under attack – here in the UK, across Europe and in the USA – and to reject the rise of a dangerous and divisive far right politics. We won’t let the politics of hate peddled by the likes of Donald Trump take hold. What happens next is up to us and by standing together we can show that the rhetoric of fear and hate have no place in our society."

MACH BITES BACK In Machynlleth, activists dropped

two large banners from the historic Dyfi bridge. Their aim was to send a simple

and hopeful message calling for a just and fair world without borders. As one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump was expected to sign an executive order banning refugees from the Middle East from entering the US. A spokesperson for Mid-Wales Refugee Action, who organised the banner drop, told The Herald: "We want 2017 to be a year of building bridges not walls, for a world that is peaceful, just and free of oppression." As the two five metre banners were unfurled, activists joined hands along the length of the bridge to symbolise unity. Mid Wales Refugee Action’s

spokesperson said: "The Dyfi bridge is a crossing point between North and South Wales, bridging communities and bringing people together. Whilst Teresa May, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage would rather build walls to keep people out, we say build communities,

build bridges and build a better, fairer world. Today’s action is not just about Donald Trump. Mainstream media and establishment politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are helping to create a new normal where bigotry and extreme right wing views are accepted as an everyday part of life. It is vital that we stand together to oppose this threat to our democracy."

LLANBEDR PONT STEFFAN In the aptly named Llanbedr Pont

Steffan (Lampeter), activists displayed banners onthe bridge proclaiming ‘Stand Together’ and ‘Refugees Welcome’. One participant in the action, Ian O’Reilly, told The Herald: "The event was really great and peaceful, with quite a lot of support from the local community - particularly

A BRIDGE TOO FAR? In Aberystwyth, the banner-drop

at Penglais footbridge featured one large banner which was held by about 10 people. A second banner was firmly secured with cable ties to the bridge railing. Cars hooted in support as they came down the hill. One participant told us that it was ‘a fine-spirited friendly action until university security guards arrived, [with] one loudly demanding the banners be removed'. They continued: "No explanation

was given other than 'health and safety', but it was not made clear to any of the protesters where the health and safety risks lay. The same officer started tearing at the cable-tied banner but then moved on to photograph everybody instead. [When] asked again

why the banners posed a risk, another officer explained that the hand-held banner was at risk of falling down onto moving cars below but he said that the cable-tied one was okay. It seemed to me that they were not at all clear about what the health and safety grounds were, they were certainly not a united front and I actually think that the two quieter officers were a bit embarrassed at the whole spectacle. It would have been so easy to use a friendly approach, explain what the problem was and have a conversation with the protesters about how to move on. I'm sure everybody, security officers and alike, would have felt much better." Aberystwyth University told The

Herald: "Aberystwyth University strongly supports the principles of freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest. However, we have a particular duty of care in relation to the footbridge over Penglais Hill. For safety reasons, it is university policy to ensure any overhanging materials such as banners are removed from the footbridge as they pose an immediate risk of distraction to drivers and pedestrians using the busy road below. On Friday (Jan 20), members of our

Llanbedr Pont Steffan: ‘The event was really great and peaceful’

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