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LONDON — If President Donald Trump was in any doubt about the welcome he would receive during his visit to Britain, one glance out of his helicopter window would have told him everything.
Hours earlier Thursday, he had claimed: “I think they like me a lot in the U.K.”
But as Marine One thundered into the London sky later that evening, gathered below were several hundred protesters armed with pots, pans, drums, horns, whistles, megaphones and placards daubed with messages of varying profanity.
Their message was chanted over and over. “F*** Trump, F*** Trump, F*** Trump,” they yelled, all the while making a din with their improvised instruments.
The protest was held at a temporary security fence around the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London, Winfield House, where Trump is staying during his four-day visit.
It was just the beginning.
Over the weekend, there will be dozens of anti-Trump demonstrations across the United Kingdom. The largest will be a march through central London on Friday culminating in a huge rally in Trafalgar Square expected to attract tens of thousands of people.
Meanwhile, another protest will see a 20-foot blimp in the shape of an orange baby featuring Trump’s face fly over Parliament.
The president has decided to largely avoid London during his trip, perhaps mindful of being confronted or associated with a mass display of public rejection. But this will not be confined to the capital.
Among the 68 events listed on the Stop the Trump Coalition website is the “Orkney Picnic of Resistance” in the isles in northern Scotland, and the “Anti-Trump Vigil” in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.
The mood will likely not be helped by an extraordinary interview Trump gave with British tabloid The Sun late Thursday, in which he trashed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations and warned she may have blown a trade deal with the U.S.
Before those remarks were published, Trump flew by helicopter from the ambassador’s residence to Winston Churchill’s ancestral home, Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire.
There, he and first lady Melania Trump were treated to a welcome ceremony and a lavish, black-tie dinner by May, her husband, Philip, and a host of business leaders.
At both Winfield House and Blenheim Palace, they were greeted by protest. When their helicopter left the former, the pandemonium almost drowned out the rotor blades.
“He’s creating and fomenting a culture of racism, misogyny, intolerance, hatred and negativity and it’s very dangerous,” said Kate Gartside, a 54-year-old screenwriter from London who held a sign reading: “Lock him up!”
She was there with her husband, Rod Rawley, a 72-year-old originally from California.
“The feeling of the British people has manifested itself here today,” said Rawley, also a writer, shouting to make himself heard over the cacophony.
“[Friday’s] demonstration will prove the number of people who are totally against what Trump stands for,” he added. “Although I don’t think he stands for anything apart from himself.”
The protesters had a range of grievances, from Trump’s policies on immigration and his remarks about Muslims and women, to his record on climate change and what organizers call his family’s “corporate greed.”
Some said they planned to stay all night at the fence, a good 200 yards from the residence, banging and hooting in a bid to keep the president awake.
“It’s embarrassing, isn’t it?” said Jasmin Harper, a 27-year-old insurance worker who moved from Virginia to London four years ago. “I’m appalled and disgusted by everything Trump does. I almost can’t think of the words. It’s not the America I know.”
Not everyone was holding a banner. Angi Naylor, 64, had constructed a hat featuring a motif of the Trump baby blimp.
“Mr. Trump has some very unfortunate ideas that affect me personally,” said the retired social worker. “I’m gay, I’m a woman, I have lots of friends who are black and Asian and I do not condone any of the things that he says.”
Marlon Kameka, a 29-year-old actor, added: “As a black man, I don’t like the way he’s spoken about the NFL players, calling them ‘sons of bitches,’ or for him to say there were ‘some very fine people’ at the Charlottesville march. We still have issues around race in this country but it pales in comparison to America.”
Ashley MacDonald is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and has lived in the UK 16 years. This sign was conceived and painted by her 11-year-old daughter, who couldn’t come to the protest today but was aparently adamant to have a voice here. Those are her hand prints. pic.twitter.com/HiJiUUGJ16
— Alexander Smith (@AlexanderSmith) July 12, 2018
While many of Brits might not agree, Trump’s visit is an opportunity for May to make a trade pitch.
With her country preparing to leave the European Union, and her government suffering a slew of high-profile resignations over Brexit, May rolled out the red carpet for Trump at Blenheim Palace and urged him to consider an ambitious trade deal with Britain.
“From Maine to Alaska, more than 1 million Americans work for British companies,” she said at the dinner. “Now, as we prepare to leave the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more.”
The Sun published its interview barely before the plates had been cleared.
The pair are due to meet again Friday at her country retreat of Chequers for what the British government described as “substantive bilateral talks on a range of foreign policy issues.”
Then comes perhaps the most symbolic moment for the president: a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.
From there Trump will travel to Scotland where he will visit at least one of his golf resorts.
A demonstration was planned for Glasgow’s George Square on Friday night and a mass rally in Edinburgh, starting at the Scottish Parliament and ending at The Meadows park, on Saturday afternoon.
This is Dd Davies, a fine-art student from Hampshire who’s used her creative skills to make an electronic “effigy” of Donald Trump. “If he’s going to grab women by certain parts of their anatomy then I’m going to stab him in his y-fronts with a pin” pic.twitter.com/4uxZDGuLOL
— Alexander Smith (@AlexanderSmith) July 12, 2018
Smaller protests were expected early Saturday at Balmedie in Aberdeenshire, where Trump has a new purpose-built hotel and golf course, and at Turnberry in Ayrshire, where Scottish comedian Janey Godley plans to bring placards and banners to the president’s resort.
These demonstrators don’t appear to be just a vocal minority.
On Thursday, a poll by YouGov said fewer than one in five Brits had a favorable opinion of the president.
The same poll found 74 percent of respondents think Trump is a sexist and 63 percent think he is a racist. On the flip side, 38 percent think the president is a strong leader, 25 percent believe he is charismatic and 16 percent said he was honest.
Even before this week, Trump had threatened a frosty relationship with Britain and May.
He has slapped tariffs on British steel and aluminium, criticized the country’s response to terror attacks, and appears to have warmed again to Russian President Vladimir Putin after a chemical attack that the U.K. blames on Moscow.
Trump also rubbed salt in the wounds of England’s bitter World Cup defeat at the hands of Croatia on Wednesday night, telling a Croatian journalist on Thursday: “Congratulations, by the way.”