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World News

Protesters flood London streets as Trump meets Theresa May

LONDON — Tens of thousands of protesters assembled in the the streets of London Tuesday in protest at President Donald Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom.

It is the largest of more than two dozen anti-Trump protests planned around the U.K. this week as he makes a historic state visit. Trump spent Monday meeting the Queen, insulting London’s mayor, and toasting his hosts (without controversy) at a lavish banquet at Buckingham Palace. On Tuesday he will meet British business leaders and hold a joint press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May.

“Let’s show him what we think of his divisive, hateful policies,” said the Stop Trump Coalition, which is organizing Tuesday’s protest. “Trump and his politics aren’t welcome in the U.K.”

Douglas Gray, 71, from Brentford, a suburb of west London, was holding a sign saying: “Is Trump fit to save brave yanks who died saving our arse?”

“The fact that Trump is over here commemorating D-Day is just so wrong,” the retired electrician said.

“He’s a poor representative for America. I’m not very political but the man just comes across as a fool. I’m sorry for the poor souls who died over here.”

“I think he’s the worst American president at least since Richard Nixon,” said Tom Rivers, 78, a retiree from north London. “There’s a long list of things that I think any rational European is entitled to be dismayed about.”

He and his wife Isabel Rivers, 75, lived in the U.S. for four years. “We are absolutely not anti-American at all,” she said.

As grey skies gave way to spits of rain, the protesters were undimmed, chanting “say it loud, say it clear, Donald trump’s not welcome here.” A diverse crowded included many colorful anti-Trump banners and flags, many simply urging the U.S. public to “dump Trump.”

Shana White, who holds dual British and American citizenship and lives in Kent, said Trump did not merit a state visit.

“Now we’ve invited him to our country the U.K., it’s disgraceful, and why because we want a trade deal after Brexit?” asked the 41-year-old. “I don’t think he’s right kind of president: He’s very divisive.”

The mother-of-three said there were so many policies she disagreed with she didn’t know what to put on her placard, which read “STOP FAMILY SEPARATION.”

“I spent ages deciding,” she said, adding that as a mother she was particularly concerned about children being separated from their families on the Mexican-U.S. border.

Protesters had come from far and wide. As with last year’s Brits have traveled from across the country today. Some 18 buses are listed on the official campaign website, ready to bring in demonstrators from as far away as Newcastle, 280 miles away in the north-east of England, and Swansea, west Wales.

Some came from even further afield.

“What’s going on in Alabama and Missouri, the laws over abortion rights, we think it’s very bad and that’s why we’re here,” said Sophie Pascale, 20, a law student from Italy studying and living in London.

“This March represents a huge range of issues: women’s rights, climate change big business interests. You can see so many different flags here,” said her friend, Nika Gorod, from Russia, who is also a 20-year-old law student studying in London.

“He’s horrid, he’s a misogynist, a racist, a sexist,” said Laura Barnard, a 62-year-old former elementary school teacher from Massachusetts, here in London on vacation. “And those are the nice things,” interjected her husband, Rick. “This guy is affecting the world,” the 64-year-old entrepreneur added, explaining why it was important for people to protest the president in Britain.

Flying above the demonstrators is the Trump baby blimp, a 20ft inflatable depicting the president as a bawling infant in a diaper. This first took to the skies during the president’s working visit to the U.K. in 2018, which drew upward of 250,000 protesters. The balloon’s owners could only get permission for the blimp to fly for a few hours however.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party and an outspoken Trump critic, is expected to speak at a rally following the protest, having snubbed his invitation to the state banquet at Buckingham Palace on Monday night.

Gemma Walker, campaign coordinator for the Stop Trump Coalition, said the aim of the protest was to “disrupt Trump’s visit.”

“We know he’s a Twitter user so there’s no way that he’s not going to be clear that he’s unwelcome in the U.K.,” she said.

Walker, 35, said the coalition also wanted to send a message to the British government that people reject “Trumpisms” going on in the U.K., such as attempts to dismantle Britain’s beloved publicly-funded healthcare system or the so-called “hostile environment” put in place to dissuade migrants from settling in the U.K.

Elsewhere in Britain there are a constellation of other marches, from Glasgow to Exeter and from Sheffield to Belfast.

The campaigners accuse Trump of espousing “toxic politics” on climate change, women’s rights, racism and “corporate greed,” according to the Stop Trump Coalition. Blocs participating in Tuesday’s demonstration cover all these subjects and more.

After London, Trump will travel to Portsmouth and then Normandy, France, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings. This will give the protesters an added grievance this year.

“It is an insult to all those who died fighting fascism that Trump, who has done so much to encourage fascists and the far-right, has been invited to the D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth,” said Together Against Trump, one of the other groups organizing the events.

As in most of Europe, Trump is widely disliked in the U.K. Just 21 percent of Brits have a positive opinion of him, compared with 67 percent negative, according to pollster YouGov.

By contrast, 72 percent of people in the U.K. have a positive opinion of former President Barack Obama, who had a state visit to the U.K. in 2011.