Trump blimp flies again as thousands protest UK visit

London (AFP) –


Thousands took to the streets of central London on Tuesday to protest the visit of Donald Trump, with the infamous blimp of the US president once again flying outside the Houses of Parliament.

People gathered under the shadow of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square for the "Carnival of Resistance" against the US leader, ahead of his meeting with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May at nearby Downing Street.

No official crowd figures were available yet, but more people are expected to join the banner-waving protesters later for a planned speech by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"His policies are awful... but him, himself, he's horrible," said pregnant protester Lauren Donaldson, 31, who was wearing a T-Shirt saying "bumps against Trump" over her baby bump.

"Giving a state visit, it just looks like we are agreeing and welcoming him, and we want to say 'you are not welcome, go home'."

As it started to rain, many protesters began to make the short walk past the hundreds of police lining Whitehall to Parliament Square, where the Trump blimp had earlier taken flight.

The 20-foot balloon of Trump wearing a nappy had been the focal point of protests against Trump's visit last year, and was back by "popular demand", according to organiser Leo Murray, a full-time climate activist.

- 'Upsetting' -

"When the state visit was announced we were suddenly inundated with messages saying 'you've got to fly the baby again'," Murray said.

"We know that it's upset him and it's got under his skin," he added, saying it had become "a mascot... against Trump's hateful and divisive politics."

The Museum of London is in talks to acquire the inflatable as part of its protest collection.

The demonstrators booed and shouted expletives as Trump's motorcade swept past on its way to Downing Street.

Protesters at Trafalgar Square were split into different sections, with some highlighting Trump's climate policies, others waving Palestinian flags and socialists flying hammer and sickle banners.

A giant effigy of Trump sitting on a toilet while firing off tweets was set up next to the square's famous lion statues, as hundreds waved placards reading "Dump Trump".

Other banners read "Hey Mr Tangerine Man, sod off back to America," and "We don't like you", although one supporter of the president wandered through the crowd wearing a "MAGA" baseball cap, attracting puzzled glances.

"It's hard to tell with that guy, he might take it as flattery even," Norwegian student Helen Thuen, 25, said of Trump's reaction to the protests.

"But I don't care, it's not about sending a message to him, it's about sending a message to everyone who is affected by his policies," added the Palestinian flag-waving demonstrator.

Frances Vernon, 59, said it was Trump's personality that brought her onto the streets with a sign reading "Trump is a moron".

"I don't see any kindness in him at all... he just gives me the creeps, I see nothing redeeming about him," she said.

The state visit "makes me feel very peculiar, a bit upsetting and sickening".

Some people did turn out for a show of support for the US leader, and police had to step in to separate the pro- and anti-Trump protesters.

The president's three-day visit is centred around Wednesday's D-Day 75th anniversary commemorations on the south shore of England, after which he will visit Ireland and Normandy, northern France.