A huge blimp with straw-blond hair, an orange-hued face and out-of-proportion hands that is intended to depict President Donald Trump as a baby took flight near Britain’s Parliament in London for a couple hours Friday morning.
Thousands more protesters had taken to the streets of central London by Friday afternoon, carrying countless placards and banners that read “Together Against Trump,” “Trump Not Welcome,” “Dump Trump,” “Resist Trump” and “Make Love Not Walls.” Many other signs were ridden with profanity against Trump, who arrived in London on Thursday with his wife, Melania, for their first official visit to the United Kingdom.
“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,” Kevin Smith, one of the 16 people behind the Trump balloon, told The Associated Press on Friday.
Smith is part of the Stop Trump Coalition, which organized the series of demonstrations. The group describes itself as a “coalition of organizations and individuals joined forces to protest against Donald Trump’s planned visit to the U.K.“
A statement on the group’s website reads, “We will make it clear to the British government that it’s not OK to normalize Trump’s agenda and the hate and fear it has sparked.”
The waves of protesters marched down London’s Regent Street and poured into Trafalgar Square, at times chanting “Donald Trump’s not welcome here.” Some demonstrators carried elaborate props depicting the sitting U.S. president while others donned costumes to mimic him, wearing pinstripe suits, yellow wigs and orange face paint.
Friday’s protests come one day after Trump referred to the unflattering balloon during an explosive interview with British tabloid publication The Sun, saying how Londoners make him feel “unwelcome.”
“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump said. “I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?”
Trump painted London as a hub for terrorism and took a shot at the mayor.
“Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place,” Trump told The Sun. “Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism.”
As the Trump balloon took to the skies over Parliament Square on Friday morning,Sky News interviewed London Mayor Sadiq Khan, asking whether the blimp was an appropriate form of protest.
“The fact that [the blimp] may cause offense to somebody isn’t a good reason to deter the hard-fought rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” Khan said.
During the interview with The Sun, Trump took a hard line on the nation’s ongoing Brexit negotiations, telling the tabloid that he advised U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May against the “soft” blueprint she recently presented to alleviate economic fallout as the country separates from the European Union.
“I would have done it much differently,” Trump said. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree; she didn’t listen to me.”
Trump went as far as to suggest that a “soft” Brexit could endanger any unilateral trade deal between the United States and the U.K.
In the wake of the stunning interview, which was published Thursday night, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement that appeared aimed to smooth things over.
“The president likes and respects Prime Minister May very much,” Sanders said. “As he said in his interview with The Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her.’ He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person. He is thankful for the wonderful welcome from the prime minister here in the U.K.”
Trump and May showed no signs of strain in their relationship, however, before cameras during a joint press conference Friday. In fact, Trump struck a friendlier tone and said the United States will be fine with whatever plan May pursues so long as it’s possible for the two countries to make trade deals.
Trump even characterized U.S.-U.K. ties as a “special relationship” — that is, “the highest level of special” — after spending time with May over the past couple days.
“I would give our relationship with the U.K., and now, after these past two days with your prime minister, I would say the highest level of special,” he told reporters. “Am I allowed to go higher than that? I’m not sure. It’s the highest level of special.”