Britain protesters show their opposition to Trump with slogans and one large, angry baby balloon
Protesters in Britain on Friday did not mince words regarding their objection to President Trump.
“Honk if you hate Trump,” read one placard. “Trump go home,” read another.
A giant balloon in the likeness of Trump as an orange-and-yellow scowling baby wearing a diaper was hoisted in the air above Parliament to cheers.
Among the tens of thousands of people who poured into the streets of London and elsewhere during Trump’s visit, which Friday included meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, were many who said they opposed what they called his vulgar style and tendency to admire authoritarian leaders and isolationism.
Kate Bottley, 43, from Doncaster in the north of England, held a sign with an unmistakably British tone: “I came here to drink tea and fight fascism. I’ve just finished my tea.”
“We need politicians who are thoughtful and measured,” Bottley said. “It’s the unpredictability that worries me. His lack of diplomacy, the lack of integrity.”
Trump, who arrived in Britain on Thursday after a NATO summit in Brussels, stepped into a political storm when he weighed in on British governance and the most contentious issue on the agenda: Britain’s planned exit from the European Union.
Some in Britain want to retain close economic relations with the EU and remain part of the customs union and single market. Others want to break away so the country can forge new trade agreements with other nations, make its own laws and control immigration.
Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday that the “Brexit” plan to leave the 28-nation EU in March 2019 would deliver on what voters expected when they favored the move in a 2016 referendum. The plan will “take back control of our money, our law and our borders,” she said.
In an interview with the Sun newspaper, Trump said a trade agreement between the U.S. and Britain could be at risk if May pursued what is known as a soft Brexit plan, adding that he had “told her how to do it” but she had taken a different path.
After a one-on-one meeting with May on Friday, Trump said a U.S.-U.K. trade deal would “absolutely be possible” and said relationships between the two countries were the “highest level of special.”
Ashok Jashapara, a professor of innovation studies at the University of London who was mingling among the protest crowd, was not buying any of Trump’s style.
“He’s driving this isolationist policy in America, so why is he dictating to us what we ought to be doing?” Jashapara said. “He doesn’t want us to meddle with American politics. So why is he doing that with us?”
Jashapara, who was using a wheelchair and holding a sign saying, “Dump Trump,” said he wanted to help represent disabled people: “I want to be here to be counted.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave permission for the giant balloon to fly, and he came in for an especially pointed attack during Trump’s interview with the British tabloid, in which Trump said the mayor has done a “terrible job.”
Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, on Friday defended his decision to let the blimp fly.
“The idea that we limit the right to protest because it might cause offense to a foreign leader is a slippery slope,” he said.
Before landing on U.K. soil, Trump had told reporters he thought British people liked him a lot.
On Friday, one woman in the London crowd had a sign in her fedora that read: “We dislike you a lot. Sincerely, the UK.”
Others made their opinions known in a myriad of ways.
One male protester strapped a small cage with a doll inside to his back in reference to the Trump administration’s controversial policy of separating the families of migrants who illegally cross into the U.S.
“This is NOT OK!!,” his sign read. “No human is illegal.”
A group of a half-dozen people donned fake hazmat suits and white masks with #TrumpStinks written on them in opposition to Trump administration policies considered harmful to the environment.
“For me, the biggest issue I have with him is environmental,” said Sam Naylor, who was handing out face masks to anyone who wanted them. “And the way he conducts himself.”
There were retirees in the crowd, babies with their parents, a large number of women calling for an end to misogyny and sexism, and people of many ethnic backgrounds and religions.
Many protesters said their anger was not directed only at Trump. They said they also rejected the populist politics that have been on the rise in Europe in recent years.
Despite the serious messages protesters aimed at the president, the atmosphere resembled a carnival with whistles blowing, drums playing and loud music blasting from a sound system.
A Trump impersonator wearing bright pink stockings and high heels walked through the crowds, posing for photos with the demonstrators.
Police said a small number of pro-Trump demonstrators had been in Parliament Square earlier in the day, but they had left by the time it was taken over by thousands of anti-Trump protesters.
In his interview with the Sun, Trump said he had been told about the planned protests and felt he therefore had no reason to spend time in the capital.
“I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome why would I stay there?” he said.
The protests included several locations in Scotland, where the president and First Lady Melania Trump arrived Friday night. They are due to spend the weekend at Trump’s Turnberry golf resort.
Boyle is a special correspondent.
3 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from protesters and Trump.
10:50 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Times reporting.
This article was originally published at 7:15 a.m.
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