Chanting “say it loud, say it clear, Donald Trump not welcome here,” tens of thousands of people came together in London to direct their displeasure at the U.S. leader’s views, ranging from climate change and immigration to chlorinated chicken.
For Theresa May, deeply invested in salvaging the “special relationship,” the stakes were high and it was politically expedient to ensure the protests didn’t ruffle the feathers of a president who in the past has been quick respond to personal slights. In fact, he has been largely kept away from the capital.
But in the controversial interview to The Sun, he admitted that “he used to love London” but that now the 20-foot giant balloon of him as a small-handed and screaming infant kind of hurt his feelings. It didn’t make him “feel welcome,” he told the Brexit-loving tabloid.
While he and Theresa May on Friday were in the process of making up at her countryside residence, Brits flooded the streets of central London.
Protesters gathered in the busiest shopping district, most carrying banners or wearing t-shirts with anti-Trump slogans. Manju Gregory and friend Smee Sheikh from London were holding a cardboard placard in the shape of Trump’s face, reading: “Trump talks trash, we trash Trump.”
Ahead of arriving in the U.K., Trump told reporters he was “fine” with the protests, though his trip steered clear of any London locations except the U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson’s residence in Regent’s Park on where he stayed on Thursday evening.
As his trip was quietly downgraded from a state visit, he didn’t visit Parliament and has had to move around the country by helicopter.
“Theresa May is too weak to stand up to Donald Trump so where she is weak, we are strong,” Dawn Butler, a Labour lawmaker, told a crowd gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, where a choir sang against Trump’s “racism” and “bigotry” to the tune of Rozalla’s Everybody’s Free.
Yet even from the sky on his way to Chequers on Friday, Trump would have been able to see a rude message in Russian, carved into a crop circle in a farm in Stoke Mandeville, according to local newspaper reports.
And back in London, floating above protesters from Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square was the “Trump Baby,” a helium-filled caricature of the president.
On Friday evening, it will follow the president up to Scotland on a sleeper train.
Trump stoked anger ahead of the protests after the Sun newspaper published an interview in which he tore apart May’s Brexit plans—a comment he later contradicted, and said Boris Johnson, who quit May’s Cabinet this week in protest of her Brexit plan, would make a “great” leader.
“Trump is backing Boris to be PM. That says it all,” said Margaret Broderick, 40, who was protesting with a sign that said “electile dysfunction”, with a picture of Johnson and Trump.
Not everyone is protesting against Trump’s trip though. There was a minor scuffle between pro-Trump supporters and police Friday, but the main marches to welcome the president are due to be held Saturday.
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