America Is A Democracy, Britain Reminds Trump
Yes, protesters in central London carried through the streets a large statue of the 45th president sitting on a gold-painted toilet, phone in hand. Yes, the “Trump baby” blimp, which debuted above Westminster last year during a presidential visit, was lofted into overcast, drizzly skies as Trump met privately with May to talk about future trade deals. And yes, a group of critics puckishly projected the president’s approval ratings in Britain alongside Barack Obama’s to illustrate how little he is liked here.
But, in Trump’s telling, that’s only part of the story. He said that, as he motorcaded around the city over the past two days, he saw “thousands of people on the streets cheering.”
There are ways to shield a visiting president from street images he may find unpleasant. At one time in the planning of this trip, Trump was supposed to ride to Buckingham Palace in the traditional horse-drawn carriage. That idea was scuttled, though, when authorities warned the ride would be difficult to police. Instead, Trump arrived to greet the queen by helicopter, landing in a secluded part of the palace gardens on Monday with no view of the street.
If the president was determined to evade the protesters, though, the protesters made sure to find him. In many ways, the demonstration resembled the mass protests that took place when Trump visited last year. Then, like now, thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square wielding signs saying “#DUMPTRUMP”, “TRUMP NOT WELCOME,” and “BUGGER OFF!”
Still, there were some differences from a year ago. For one, Trump was correct that attendance was off. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Westminster last year, but the turnout wasn’t as high this time. Before protesters began their march from Trafalgar Square towards 10 Downing Street, where Trump and May were meeting, one police officer at the scene estimated that there were 5,000 people in attendance. (Organizers behind the Together Against Trump protest estimated that 75,000 people attended by the end of the event, and Ash Sarkar, an activist and one of the protest organizers, told The Atlantic that those numbers were depressed because of the weather—rain—and time— a weekday.)
A number of British politicians took part in the protest, including opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was among the British leaders to boycott Monday night’s state banquet for the president at Buckingham Palace. “I want to live in a world that survives, that thrives. You do that by respecting the world, respecting each other,” Corbyn told protesters on Whitehall, just feet away from the hall where Trump and May were meeting with journalists.
At the news conference, Trump gave a retort. Asked about the Labour leader, he said that Corbyn had sought to meet with him during the trip and he had declined. Trump described Corbyn as “somewhat of a negative force.”