BRITS JEER Trump in noisy street protests.
LONDON — Tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out Friday in London. A “Trump Baby” balloon hovered above Parliament Square. Many people banged pots and pans, and chanted slogans. Those were some of the ways people mounted protests at every stage of President Donald Trump’s working visit to Britain.
The main protests were a day after the president’s trip was jolted by The Sun newspaper’s publication of an interview in which Trump gave a harsh assessment of Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategy for exiting the European Union. Trump also praised Boris Johnson, May’s Conservative Party rival, as a potentially great prime minister.
But later, Trump tried to repair the damage, calling May “tough.”
The most anticipated part of Britain’s “Stop Trump” protests — a giant orange balloon of Trump depicted as a pouting baby in a diaper and holding a smartphone — took flight in London earlier in the day.
Dozens of people — activists, tourists, children and bystanders taking time out from their commutes — gathered around the 19-foot balloon and counted down from 10 before it was released into the air.
“This is a victory,” said Leo Murray, an activist and the creator of the balloon. “People love it, he hates it, and it’s driven him out of London.”
Murray and other activists behind the inflatable “Trump Baby” have called the balloon a “symbol of resistance,” aimed at sending Trump a clear message that he is not welcome in Britain.
“The only way to get through to him is to get down to his level and talk in a language he understands — one of personal insults,” Murray has said.
“He mocks and insults anyone who doesn’t support him,” said Adam Cottrell, one of the activists behind the balloon protest, “so now he can see what it feels like.”
Not everyone was enthusiastic about the balloon. Lucy Lawson, an American expatriate, went to see it because it was close to her work, but while she opposes Trump’s policies, she said the protest was childish.
“Why are people going down to his level? Why are they being so childish?” she said. “It’s because of his childlike leadership that we are in this mess.”
Lawson asked one of the organizers why the group had launched the balloon when it knew Trump would be barely in London.
“It’s going to swamp his Twitter feed,” Cottrell said. “There’s no way he doesn’t see this.”
Throngs of demonstrators began gathering in the afternoon for the national rally in sites like Trafalgar Square. Oxford Street, famous for its shops, was transformed into a carnival of slogans against Trump.
“This is epic,” said Steven Langley, holding up a banner that read, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
“Trump is the reason that the whole world order is in disarray,” said Peggy Hudson, 37, a doctoral student. “America used to lead the world, now it’s sending us all down the drain.”
Trump landed in Britain on Thursday for a two-day visit, during which he spent the night at Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London. There, protesters banged pots and pans and played recordings of crying children separated from their parents at the Mexican border in an attempt to keep Trump awake.
On Friday morning, Trump headed to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for a military display and traveled later to Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, for talks with May on foreign policy issues. Then he and his wife, Melania, arrived at Windsor Castle to have tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
Two hours after floating above the city, the Trump Baby balloon was pulled back to earth and landed on its tummy in Parliament Square.
The protests kicked into high gear later in the day, with people marching across London, banging drums, whooping and shouting slogans. Among the protesters were Muslims who held outdoor Friday Prayers at Cavendish Square Gardens in central London, where they denounced Trump’s policies and rhetoric as divisive.
“We denounce policies, statements and narratives that turn one section of society against another,” said Anas Altikriti, president of the Muslim Association of Britain, as dozens of Muslims knelt on prayer mats. “Unfortunately, this president has seen fit to divide his own people and subsequently to divide the people of our world.”
Amrani Jani, a musician, explained that it was because of Trump’s policies against Islamic countries that Muslims in the West feared publicly displaying their religion as they had done Friday.
“There’s so many people that signed up but didn’t turn up today because they are afraid of the kind of antagonistic behavior that Trump’s language influences,” Jani said. “He puts Muslims and terrorists in the same basket, and that is very dangerous.”
As the call to prayer blasted out through a microphone in the park, some passers-by shouted expletives at the group.
“Since Trump, people feel empowered to tell us to get out or go home,” Jani said. “Well, this is home.”
In Windsor, the sweltering heat did not discourage a good number of protesters from turning out, and soon enough High Street filled up. Except for scarce chants of “Go Home,” the protest was calm, during which posters and placards did most of the talking.
“There’s really nothing positive to say about him,” said James Rice, 24, a student who went to the protest in a wheelchair.
But among the anti-Trump crowd were a few who had gone to Windsor to support the president. Gerry Hoey, 53, was one of them. “He’s fighting against corruption,” said Hoey, who had traveled from Dublin.
Almost three hours into the protest, the anti-Trump crowd found its voice, when three people waved a large “Trump Make America Great Again” flag.
The protests did not end in London. After Trump arrived at Turnberry, a golf resort he owns in Scotland where he will spend the weekend, a Greenpeace activist piloted a paraglider into the area.
Footage posted by the group to its Twitter account showed a lone paraglider swooping toward the president and his entourage with a yellow banner that read, “Trump: Well Below Par #Resist.”
Today, Trump supporters plan to march from the U.S. Embassy in London to Whitehall, where government offices are concentrated. Far-right groups plan to rally, too.
People in London’s Parliament Square take photos of a balloon depicting President Donald Trump as an angry baby that was flown as a protest against his trip to England.