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London Prepares For Protests Over Trump Visit

Jul 12, 2018
Originally published on July 12, 2018 11:13 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump arrives in London today. Tomorrow, he will meet with Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, and also with the queen. In London, huge crowds are expected to turn out to protest Trump. In fact, in an attempt to embarrass him, demonstrators are planning to fly a giant blimp of a baby that looks like President Trump in a diaper. NPR's Frank Langfitt in London has been following all of this. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: All right, so what is on President Trump's itinerary? And when did these big protests kick off?

LANGFITT: Well, they actually kick off later this afternoon where he first arrives here in London. He's going to be at Winfield House. This is the U.S. ambassador's residence up around Regent's Park. And Trump is going to be meeting and greeting with embassy staff there.

It's actually, you know, the only place he's actually going to stop in central London. The rest of the time, he's going to be outside of the city. A black-tie dinner tonight at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill. And then tomorrow, as you were saying, the prime minister - he'll be meeting with her at Chequers, the prime minister's estate, where they'll have a discussion on trade and security. Probably going to be light on results.

But really, what the Brits want is to project an image of unity and hope to avoid kind of the things that happened in Brussels, which are angry tweets and things of that sort. Hopefully, from the British perspective, this will be a calmer meeting here.

KING: Why is the president spending so little time in London? And how's he getting around while he's there?

LANGFITT: You know, if you talk to the embassy, they'll say he's going to basically spend time in a helicopter going from place to place because things are so far apart. But it also appears that this is by design - that the White House wants him to spend as little time in London as possible so he's less of a target for demonstrators.

I ran into some protesters yesterday here on the streets. They were wearing surgical masks that say, Trump stinks. And they think that Trump is afraid. The first person you're going to hear from is Minnie Vaughan. She's 31, works in advertising. And the second one is Alice Konstam. She's a TV producer.

MINNIE VAUGHAN: I think the fact that he's not taking any meetings in London is quite cowardly.

ALICE KONSTAM: I think he knows he has a lot of people in London that dislike him. I mean, I think the ratio, compared to America, is a lot larger.

KING: So I've been looking online at pictures of this blimp that's going to fly over London. It's a big baby that looks like President Trump in a diaper. How did protesters get this done? Did they need approval?

LANGFITT: They did. You know, this is not - you don't see blimps around London at all.

KING: Good to know.

LANGFITT: And they had to go to the mayor's office, Sadiq Khan. And he said he agreed to it, in part because there was a petition online. And he said, this is just about free speech, and I'm not in any place to censor anybody. He's taken some criticism of this because people want to have - who would like to have good relations with the United States.

But this also may be payback from Mayor Khan to President Trump because they actually started engaging in a Twitter war more than a year ago. If you remember, we had the London Bridge terror attacks here that killed, I believe, about eight people.

KING: Yeah.

LANGFITT: And during that time, if I remember correctly, Sadiq Khan said people shouldn't be alarmed. There'd be a lot of police on the street. President Trump actually seemed to deliberately misquote him, make it look like he didn't care that much. And so they've been kind of going at it back-and-forth ever since. So it's a tense relationship. And it also shows that the mayor's willing to kind of take a jab at the president of the United States.

KING: Interesting. NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Thanks, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.