US President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK has sparked a "Carnival of Resistance" across the country, with a giant balloon depicting the US president as an orange baby was hoisted into the London sky over Parliament.
Friday’s “Carnival of Resistance” had been planned in some 50 cities across Britain – from Newcastle and York to Brighton – and drew hundreds of thousands of people in what organisers hoped would be “one of the biggest demonstrations in British history” to protest against Trump’s policies.
“It’s to denounce Donald Trump’s visit, but also his policies, which are homophobic, sexist, climate sceptic, and undignified migration policies that separate children from their migrant parents. Donald Trump isn’t welcome in the United Kingdom,” Shabbir Lakha, one of the organisers of the nationwide carnival, told FRANCE 24 on the eve of the protests.
The centrepiece of Friday's protests was a 20ft (6m) tall nappy-wearing Trump balloon, with a quiff of yellow hair and a mobile phone that was hoisted over the Houses of Parliament on Friday morning. The blimp was made reality after a crowd-funding campaign raised £20,000 (€29,000) to make it.
“We’re holding a mirror up to the toddler in chief – and showing the president that we deplore his tantrums,” Nona Hurkmans, a spokesperson for the group behind the balloon, told the Huffington Post before the balloon was launched, saying she looked forward to “seeing the baby fly”.
Later Friday, the balloon was brought down from the London sky and sent to Scotland, where Trump is spending the weekend.
But the balloon has also drawn criticism, with some Britons calling it an embarrassing and pathetic stunt that risks the nation’s relationship with its greatest ally.
An embarrassment to this country, labour mayor allowing a ridiculous balloon to be flown over London when the leader of our historically greatest ally is visiting. Small man. Small country. We should be ashamed. No matter what anyone thinks of trump.DisgraceTerry (@tsb3000) July 13, 2018
‘Kick start the revolution’
FRANCE 24’s Bénédicte Paviot reported from the first demonstration, where protesters banged pots and pats and sang songs like "We Are Family" amid a carnival atmosphere.
“This is about taking sexism out of politics,” Paviot said of the purpose of the rally. “The mood is very focused on the fact that there is huge disapproval [of Trump and his policies] here, with banners saying ‘Trump not welcome’.”
Later in the afternoon, a "Stop Trump" march also took off from Portland Place outside BBC studios to Trafalgar Square in central London, where a rally was held in the early evening.
By mid-afternoon, more than 100,000 protesters, including celebrities sauch as actress Laura Carmichael who played Lady Edith Crawley in TV's Downton Abbey, had joined the march, organisers said.
Aerial views broadcast on British media showed densely packed crowds filling the shopping district near Oxford Circus leading up to the rally.
The march organisers, from a loose coalition of groups and individuals who oppose Trump’s policies, had been meticulous in their planning of the event, dedicating a whole website to “make clear to the British government that it’s not OK to normalise Trump’s agenda”. The website was complete with a countdown clock, maps, schedules and other handy information for those who wanted to join Friday’s rally. They’d also arranged for hundreds of buses to bring protesters from more than a dozen British cities into London.
"Bring banners, loudhailers, sound systems and everything you need to kick start the revolution," they wrote ahead of the rally.
Helicopters for transport
British anger over Trump’s four-day 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.
Trump will spend very little time in London during his visit, having stayed in the capital for a single, well-insulated night at the official residence of the US ambassador in Regent’s Park.
Trump's Marine One departure from the ambassador's residence was met by jeers from demonstrators banging pots and pans, and another pack of protesters lined roads near the palace. Some of their signs read "Dump Trump", ''Lock Him Up" and "There Will Be Hell Toupee."
After arriving in Britain on Thursday afternoon, Trump had dinner at Winston Churchill’s birthplace, Blenheim Palace, about 60 miles (100km) outside of London. On Friday he travelled to the prime minister’s country residence, Chequers, for talks with May. Instead of a procession down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, he was helicoptered to the garden at Windsor Castle for tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
After his meetings, Trump flew north for a round of golf at his Turnberry resort in Scotland.
That didn't help him escape protesters who had scheduled demonstrations outside the golf course, as well as at George Square in Glasgow and near the US consulate in Edinburgh.
Police estimated that some 1,600 people attended the George Square rally.
Emily Bryce, from Stirling, proudly carried a homemade banner written in Gaelic, as recognition of Trump's Highland roots, which translates as "Donald Trump, son of the devil".
The 67-year-old Bryce said: "It's a disgrace that Theresa May has allowed Trump to visit the UK and to meet the queen."
Despite the widespread anti-Trump feeling, there was overwhelming agreement that the UK protests aren't anti-American.
Jonathon Gillies, a 27-year-old bar worker from Glasgow, said that "nobody here is against Americans. They are welcome to come here anytime. It's just Trump we have a problem with".
Trump blimp makes him ‘feel unwelcome’
Trump, in an interview with Britain’s The Sun newspaper, criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan, saying he had not been “hospitable” to the US government. Khan approved 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 the target of Trump’s ire, backed the protests but said those who want to cause trouble are not welcome.
In The Sun interview, Trump allegedly also lashed out at Prime Minister May and her handling of Brexit, saying that May's plans for close future ties with the EU would "probably kill" her hopes for a trade deal with the US. During a press conference with the British premier on Friday afternoon, however, Trump dismissed the interview as “fake news”, saying he has a lot of respect for May and that a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal is still possible.
British police have been working overtime to handle the protests surrounding Trump's visit and all leave has been cancelled.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2018-07-13