LONDON — A group of official “babysitters” in orange jackets inflated a giant “Trump Baby” ballon with helium Thursday morning and flew it above Westminster Abby at Parliament Square, in the first demonstration of a long day against President Trump’s visit here.
Nationwide protests were planned for Friday, with the big one scheduled for central London. Tens of thousands were expected to hit the streets in the afternoon, but things were already getting underway early in the morning with the lift-off of a giant blimp depicting Trump as an angry baby wearing a diaper and clutching a mobile phone.
“I think that when you disrespect, you are going to be disrespected,” said Paul Phillips, 54, an American tourist visiting from Buffalo, who watch the balloon go aloft.
The protesters’ outrage was stoked by an explosive interview Trump gave to The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper, in which he dismissed Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to exit the European Union as deeply flawed — and said her strategy of aligning rules and regulations for traded goods between Britain and E.U. would effectively “kill” any chance of a great trade deal with the United States.
In the interview, Trump also grumbled about the protests. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told the paper. “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?”
This was welcome news for the organizers of the blimp.
“It’s worked spectacularly well. We’ve basically run him out of London. He’s got the message: he’s not welcome here,” said Leo Murray, the brains behind the blimp project.
Murray, who was wearing red overalls that said “Trump Babysitter” on the back, said that he and his mates chose to protest with a giant “Trump Baby” blimp because “we wanted to cheer people up” and that “this would be an effective form of protest against Donald Trump because he’s famously vulnerable to personal insults.”
Organizers of Britain’s nationwide protests of President Trump are committed to staging some of the largest demonstrations since 2003, when hundreds of thousands hit the streets to oppose war in Iraq.
“I’m marching because of the disdain that Trump has shown for Britain and because of his disgraceful treatment of minorities in the United States,” said David Lammy, a leading member in the opposition Labour Party who will give a speech at Friday’s rally in London.
“Whenever London experiences a tragedy, it’s also the case that Trump licks his lips and tweets,” he said.
Lammy noted that Britain has rolled out the red carpet for other controversial political figures before, but “this is the leader of the free world, this is our closest ally in the global community.”
Asad Rehman, 51, one of the organizers of the Stop Trump coalition, said, “Donald Trump will very much hear us and see us.”
Campaigners staged a “Keep Trump Awake” protest outside the U.S. ambassador’s London residence, where the president and first lady spent Thursday night. They encouraged people to bring “pots, drums and vuvuzelas.”
Rehman said the protests were “not simply about Donald Trump, the man. It is actually an expression of opposition to the policies and politics he represents, which has echoes across Europe and in the U.K., as well.”
But Trump, the man, has also helped to “galvanize a large cross-section of people across multiple issues,” he said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a frequent Trump foe, said that the planned protests were not “anti-American — far from it.” But he said that the “special relationship” means “speaking out when we think one side is not living up to the values we hold dear.”
“The eyes of the world will be on London this week. It’s an opportunity for our city to show our values, twinned with our world-renowned sense of humour,” Khan wrote in the London Evening Standard newspaper.
Polls suggest Trump is unpopular in Britain — but he does have his fans.
Damien Smyth, 52, has temporarily changed the name of his London pub from the Jameson to the Trump Arms to honor the visit. The place is festooned with American and British flags, and a sign above the entrance reads: “Welcome our American Friends.”
Trump, Smyth said, has done “wonderful work since taking office” and has “made the world safe again — that’s the most important thing, and has done tremendous work with the economy.” Smyth, whose wife is from the Bronx, said that while “no one was perfect,” he admired Trump for going into politics and said that other successful businesspeople should do the same.
He said that the “silent majority” in Britain liked Trump, but “it’s not cool to say you’re a Trump supporter; these people are shunned.”