London: Thousands of protesters are preparing to greet US President Donald Trump on his state visit to the UK next week, demonstrating against a range of his policies from immigration to climate change.
The plan is for demonstrators to take over Trafalgar Square in central London, with the main Facebook page logging 7,600 attendees and 33,000 interested people as of Friday morning. Organisers are also trying to raise €30,000 (Dh139,574; $38,000) to fly a giant balloon depicting Trump as a small-handed, diaper-clad infant — as they did during his visit last year.
“This is about sending a strong message that people in the UK don’t accept the divisive right-wing policies that Trump stands for, and that inviting him for a state visit is totally inappropriate,” the Stop Trump Coalition said in a statement. Another group, Stand Up To Trump, is also organising the protests.
The protests risk taking more of the shine off the so-called special relationship between the two allies. Last July, Trump told The Sun newspaper that while he used to love London, the balloon and the protests — organisers estimated 250,000 people took to the streets — didn’t make him “feel welcome.”
Trump is likely to be even more exposed to the protests this time. He’ll spend two days in central London, unlike last year when he largely avoided the city.
The White House declined to comment on the planned protests.
The offer of a state visit — essentially at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II — has been controversial in Britain since Prime Minister Theresa May offered it when she became the first foreign leader to visit Trump in the White House in January 2017. It’s been delayed repeatedly, and a YouGov poll this month showed 40% of Britons oppose Trump’s visit, compared with 46% who support it.
He’ll miss some of the trappings of a typical state visit, though. A gilded carriage ride to Buckingham Palace isn’t happening due to security concerns; extensive renovations mean he won’t stay there. He also won’t have the chance to address Parliament because of opposition from politicians including Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.
Trump’s visit consists of largely royal engagements on Monday, including a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, before lunch with May at her Downing Street residence Tuesday. On Wednesday, he visits Portsmouth on the south coast for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a key turning point in World War II.
Protesters are focusing on a “Carnival of Resistance” on Tuesday at Trafalgar Square, just up the road from Downing Street, at 11am. Activists then plan to march to nearby locations on Trump’s itinerary.
Buses have been arranged to transport protesters in from as far away as Newcastle, York, Norwich and Swansea, and for those who can’t travel, there are local protests organised in towns and cities across the UK
London’s Metropolitan Police declined to specify the scale of security operations, saying only that it would be “significant.”
“This will be a multi-agency policing operation with a very experienced command team in place,” the police said in an emailed statement.
Authorities will be mindful of at least one trend to have emerged at recent protests as the UK grapples with the impasse over Brexit: dousing — typically right-wing — politicians with milkshakes. It’s unlikely anyone will get close enough to the president to do it, but a group called Milkshakes Against Trump Bloc has gathered 1,700 interested people on Facebook.
They’re planning to be at the protests on Tuesday.