Sing-alongs and sculptures: protesters descend on London against Donald Trump’s state visit

The NHS, climate and sexism were among the reasons given for turning out against the president

Anti Trump protesters displayed a Trump baby blimp over Parliament Square. EPA
Anti Trump protesters displayed a Trump baby blimp over Parliament Square. EPA

Thousands of people demonstrated in central London on the second day of Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK, metres away from where the US President was being hosted by Theresa May at Downing Street.

Amusing placards, sculptures and music set a good-natured tone as up to 10,000 people joined to share their dissatisfaction at Mr Trump being hosted by the royal family.

Protests began in Parliament Square with the launch of a monstrous blimp showing Mr Trump as a baby, gripping a mobile phone.

Organisers promised to inflate the balloon again if supporters raised £30,000 (Dh140,000) for six UK and US groups fighting Islamophobia, misogyny, climate change and xenophobia.

“It seems that more than 1,500 donors have helped us also see the seriousness of a major world leader whose bigoted outbursts and regressive policies are laying the tracks for even more harm for marginalised people the world over,” Ajuub Faraji wrote in the Huffington Post on Tuesday.

As the Trump baby was filled with helium, Lewis Metcalfe’s vivid red Make America Great Again cap stuck out among the placards denigrating the US president.

“It's crazy," Mr Metcalfe, 28, told The National. "I am very much the minority here. There are a lot of anti-Trump supporters.

“I won't lie, I'm a little bit nervous, but also excited as well.”

He said he had travelled in the early hours from Yorkshire to find common ground with the anti-Trump protesters and open up discourse.

So far, the reaction had been mixed, Mr Metcalfe said.

Also watching the floating Trump baby, which featured in last year’s London protests against the US leader, was Labour MP Clive Lewis.

Mr Lewis said he respected the office of the US presidency, but felt a state visit was condoning his views.

“His views, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already said, are akin to the views that were being extolled in the 1930s by fascists across Europe and America,” he said.

“I don't think it's right that we pat him on the back and salute that with an official state visit.”

After stopping in to view the famous balloon, protesters walked to Trafalgar Square to join the throng gathering for a march against Mr Trump’s visit.

The thousands of protesters represent a growing distaste for Mr Trump in the UK.

Only 21 per cent of people surveyed by YouGov had a "positive opinion" of him. Among women, that figure fell to 14 per cent.

Karen and her son Rob joined the protest at Trafalgar Square. Taylor Heyman / The National
Karen and her son Rob joined the protest at Trafalgar Square. Taylor Heyman / The National

Some waved placards bemoaning Mr Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, while others chanted “save our NHS”, or National Health Service.

A choir sang “Oh Donald Trump, you ain’t gonna run our world”, to the tune of Bob Dylan’s Playboys and Playgirls.

Protesters gave a variety of reasons for turning out.

Karen, an American NHS worker who has lived in the UK for 23 years, said while Mr Trump’s tweets were “distracting everybody” his team was busy “dismantling environmental laws”.

Carrying a sign reading “unintelligent, unpresidential, unwelcome,” Karen also expressed concern for the NHS, saying US plans to access to the health service in a post-Brexit trade deal were terrible.

“I've been a patient in the NHS a number of times and I work front line in cancer therapy, and I just think it's an amazing organisation,” she said.

“It's got its problems but I'd hate to see anything happen to it.”

Saskia joined her first protest with stepmother Sandra. Taylor Heyman/The National
Saskia joined her first protest with stepmother Sandra. Taylor Heyman/The National

Student Saskia, 21, joined the protests with her stepmother Sandra, 61.

Back from six months of studying in the US, Saskia felt moved by Mr Trump's leadership to attend her first protest.

“It’s everything,” she said. “Climate change is something I’m really passionate about, as a geography major, but it’s his whole philosophy.”

As they prepared to march up to the cordon around Downing Street, the heavens opened.

Mr Trump would have hoped the rain would dampen the spirits of protesters, but it did little to stop them massing to hear speakers.

As he left Mrs May's residence, protesters booed and shook their fists at his car.

Mr Trump later said there had been only a small group of people protesting, in contrast to "thousands" of well-wishers cheering for him.

Campaign group Led By Donkeys has also turned its attention from trolling Brexiteers to teasing the US leader.

It projected on to Big Ben a clip of Boris Johnson criticising Mr Trump’s immigration policies, and his UK approval ratings compared with those of Barack Obama on to the Tower of London.

The protests and counter-protests may be commemorated by the Museum of London, which announced it would try to acquire blimps of Mr Khan and Mr Trump for display.

Footage on social media appeared to show someone popping the balloon.

Updated: June 5, 2019 12:52 AM

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