Tens of thousands of protesters are marching through central London against US President Donald Trump as he visits the UK, chanting “Donald Trump’s not welcome here,” and holding placards that call him the “World’s #1 racist” and an “American psycho.”
Throngs of protesters began marching from outside the BBC at central London’s Portland Place, slamming the President for his attitude and behavior toward women and controversial policies, including the Muslim travel ban and the separation of migrant children from their families at the US border, organizers of the “Bring the Noise” protest said.
Organizers claimed that 250,000 people had joined numerous demonstrations in central London. Police in the city did not give an estimate on the turnout, but said they were forced to close off Trafalgar Square, where protesters were headed for an evening rally, because it was close to capacity.
One demonstration was led by the Women’s March London, which organized mass rallies in 2017 against Trump.
“We want to let Trump know we from the UK, one of the US’ biggest allies, are not OK with his policies,” said Alice Stevenson, 24. “We’re in solidarity with those negatively affected by Trump’s policies around the world.”
Meena Patel and Shakila Maan from the organization Southall Black Sisters said they were against Trump’s child-separation policy.
“Trump’s policies are akin to Nazi Germany in terms of separating children from their families,” said Patel, wearing a T-shirt reading, “Do I look illegal?”
John Malone, a 65-year-old retired teacher from Bristol, traveled on a chartered bus from the southwestern city to join the protest.
“I’m here because I think Donald Trump is the most destructive force is the world today,” he said, adding that the last protest he took part in was one to stop the Iraq war. “Nothing has moved me as much since then except Trump.”
Two groups of protesters are marching from Portland Place, with one march ending at Parliament Square for an afternoon rally, and the other, organized by the Stop Trump organization, concluding at Trafalgar Square to rally through the evening.
Earlier, protesters released a giant, orange-hued balloon of a “Trump Baby” in a diaper over the Houses of Parliament early Friday morning, in what organizers said was an attempt to speak to the leader “in a language that he understands, which is personal insults.”
UK residents who come from other nations also joined the demonstrations, including 38-year-old Paola Feregrino from Mexico.
“I am angry. Angry about everything Trump represents. His policies on immigration, his racism, economic policies, everything,” said Feregrino.
Trump’s schedule allows him to avoid the embarrassment of the mass protests in the British capital.
Trump says he is very popular in Britain, but he conceded the demonstrations made him feel “unwelcome” in the capital. He made his comments in an explosive interview with The Sun published Friday, in which he ridiculed May over her Brexit plans, remarks he rolled back on in an awkward press conference alongside the Prime Minister at Chequers.
But the President has his supporters in the UK as well. Some were seen at a bar near Trafalgar Square in a shouting match with anti-Trump protesters.
Supporters also turned up to Windsor Castle on London’s western outskirts, ahead of the President’s meeting with the Queen.
‘I used to love London’: Trump
A petition started to prevent an official state visit by Trump, after Prime Minister Theresa May invited him to the UK in 2017, gained 1.8 million signatures. The issue was debated in Parliament, where the House speaker made clear that Trump would not be given the honor of speaking to lawmakers. Trump postponed his visit several times, and is now visiting the UK on a lower-level working visit. But he has still been met with plenty of pomp and ceremony, and will have high tea with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle.
In his interview with the tabloid newspaper the Sun, Trump said he had soured on London and blamed Mayor Sadiq Khan for making him feel unwelcome.
Khan approved the protesters’ plan to fly the Trump blimp over London earlier this month, while police in Scotland have rejected their proposal to repeat the stunt with Trump’s visit to Turnberry over the weekend.
Khan, who has a testy Twitter relationship with Trump, gave the unusual request the go-ahead after more than 10,000 people signed a petition.
“The idea that we would curtail freedom to protest, freedom of speech, because someone’s feelings are hurt is laughable,” Khan said Friday in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Trump said in his Sun interview that he “used to love London as a city.”
“I haven’t been there in a long time. I think your mayor has done a terrible job, but when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?
“And when I say that, I am talking about government because the people of the UK agree with me.”
But Trump is not the first US President to be given a less-than-warm welcome.
Protesters took to UK streets when then-President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura came on a state visit in 2003, months after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
During that visit, tens of thousands of people joined a demonstration in central London that culminated in a rally in Trafalgar Square, at which an effigy of Bush was toppled from a plinth. The scene echoed the moment when a statue of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad’s Firdos Square.
By contrast, Barack and Michelle Obama have been warmly welcomed by the British public on their trips to Britain — as well as by the royals.