LONDON — Demonstrators mocked U.S. President Donald Trump with a giant balloon depicting him as a screaming orange baby Friday as tens of thousands march through the streets of London to protest the American leader’s visit to the U.K.
The diaper-clad infant, with a quiff of hair and a mobile phone for tweeting, soared over the Houses of Parliament, the centerpiece of demonstrations protesting Trump’s policies on issues ranging from immigration and race relations to women and climate change.
“This was just a bunch of friends who got together in a pub,” said Kevin Smith, one of the 16 people behind the balloon. “This is what people need to be doing — to come together in their communities to organize and work out how to stand against right wing populism and xenophobia that we’re seeing not just in the U.S. but in Europe.”
Anger over Trump’s visit has already had consequences. Just a week after Trump’s inauguration, Prime Minister Theresa May invited the president for a state visit, the type of event that normally includes glittering horse-drawn carriages and a state dinner hosted by the monarch. That morphed into this two-day “working visit” with much less pomp and circumstance amid concern about security and crowds in central London.
Protest organizers say they plan to stage demonstrations in some 50 cities around the U.K.
“We hope that wherever Donald Trump goes, he hears and sees the strength of a British opinion that rejects not just him as a person and however distasteful he is as a person, but the policies and politics that he represents,” said Asad Rehman, organizer of UK Protests Against Trump’s Visit.
Trump will spend very little time in London, having stayed in the capital for a single, well-insulated night at the official residence of the U.S. ambassador in Regent’s Park.
After arriving in Britain on Thursday afternoon, Trump had dinner at Winston Churchill’s birthplace, Blenheim Palace, about 60 miles outside London. On Friday, he will travel to the prime minister’s country residence, Chequers, for talks with May. Instead of a procession down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, he’ll be helicoptered to the garden at Windsor Castle for tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
Trump, in an interview with Britain’s Sun newspaper, criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan, saying he had not been “hospitable” to the U.S. government. Khan refused to block the Trump baby balloon.
“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump said in an interview published Friday.
Khan, who has often been a target of Trump’s ire, backed the protests but said those who want to cause trouble are not welcome.
“The U.S. has always stood by our side as a beacon for tolerance, openness and respect. This protest is not anti-American – far from it. Most of those marching on Friday will love the United States, just as I do,” Khan said. “But having a special relationship means that we expect the highest standards from each other, and it also means speaking out when we think the values we hold dear are under threat.”
The National Police Chiefs Council, which is responsible for the deployment of police during large-scale events, said demand is “particularly high” this week as forces work together to provide security and police the protests. Rest days for officers have been canceled and many will be working 12-hour shifts.
Trump’s visit is one of the biggest mutual aid operations for police in recent years, requiring similar resources to the 2014 NATO summit in Wales, the council said.
After his meetings in and around London, Trump will fly north for a round of golf at his Turnberry resort in Scotland.
That won’t help him escape protesters who have scheduled demonstrations outside the golf course, as well as George Square in Glasgow and near the U.S. consulate in Edinburgh.
A march in support of Trump will start at the U.S. Embassy on the south bank of the River Thames and end near the prime minister’s residence at Downing Street on Saturday.
Sarah Elliott, chairwoman of Republicans Overseas UK, said that as president, Trump should be offered respect wherever he goes. She wants to offer him a warm welcome besides.
“We want to put a positive spin on his visit because we think that what comes out of this visit is more important than any kind of protest that can be made,” she said. “The United Kingdom is leaving the EU in a few months’ time and are they prepared to do a free trade deal with the U.S., because Mr. Trump is.”
But the sheer showmanship of the Trump baby has captured the public imagination.
The 20-foot tall balloon’s creators, who call themselves babysitters, freely admit they borrowed the idea from comedian Jon Stewart, who in 2016 called Trump a “man-baby.” A crowd-funding campaign raised 20,000 pounds ($26,400) to make it a reality.
“Depicting Trump as a baby is a great way of targeting his fragile ego, and mocking him is our main motivation,” said Matthew Bonner, one of the organizers. “He doesn’t seem to be affected by the moral outrage that comes from his behavior and his policies. You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him.”