UK: U.S. president mocked as thousands protest UK state visit
Thousands of protesters gathered in London on Tuesday to show their opposition to Donald Trump on his state visit to the UK. The U.S. president was jeered by the crowds and the 20-foot “Baby Trump” blimp, which was created for his last visit to the country, was flown above Parliament Square during his meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May.
The balloon was arranged by the Stop Trump Coalition and Asad Rehman, one of the group’s organizers, said the stunt was “a very British way of using humor, to prick that pomposity (of the U.S. president).”
As Trump made his way to the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, he reportedly passed the blimp. When it was flown during his previous visit to London, the president complained the inflatable baby made him “feel unwelcome.”
Several thousand protesters gathered in the capital, organized by the umbrella organization Together Against Trump. Among those protesting were Members of Parliament from the Labour Party, celebrities, members of socialist groups and feminist organizations, pro-Palestine activists and football fans.
Protect the NHS
Most of the protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square before making their way along Whitehall to Parliament Square, where they heard a speech from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who warned against “offering up our precious, wonderful National Health Service” for a post-Brexit trade deal with America, before vowing to defend free healthcare.
As well as Trump’s associations with far-right groups and figures, protesters were rallying against a potential U.S.-UK trade deal which could see the British state-run National Health Service opened up to American businesses. Woody Johnson, U.S. ambassador to the UK, confirmed his government wants the “entire” British economy to be up for discussion when the two sides negotiate a trade deal.
While significantly outnumbered by the protesters, there were small pockets of Trump supporters present. A dozen, many of whom were wearing hats bearing the president’s slogan “Make America Great Again,” had gathered outside a pub on Whitehall. They waved American flags and exchanged chants with the protesters before police stepped in to separate the groups. Later, several unidentified protesters, some of whom had their faces covered, scuffled with police outside the same pub.
The president’s visit, part of the events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, comes amid Brexit uncertainty for the UK. Addressing business leaders on Monday night, Trump, a supporter of Brexit, said the U.S. and a post-Brexit Britain can have a “very, very substantial trade deal,” adding, “this is something you want to do and my folks want to do.” In turn, May, who steps down as Conservative Party leader on June 7, hailed the “huge opportunities” for the UK and U.S. to work together.
It is highly unlikely that she will be in power to sign any future deal and her successors, who will battle to become Conservative leader and then prime minister, were already maneuvering for face time with Trump.
Michael Gove, the environment secretary and a Tory leadership candidate, was due to meet the president. While his rival Boris Johnson has no meeting planned with Trump, despite the president’s praise for the Brexiteer.