The most anticipated installment of Britain’s “Stop Trump” protests – a giant orange balloon of President Donald Trump depicted as a pouting baby in a diaper and holding a smartphone – took flight Friday from Parliament Square in London.
As if they were waiting for a rocket launch, dozens of excited people – including activists, tourists, children and bystanders taking time out from their commutes – gathered around the 19-foot balloon and counted down from 10 before it was released into the air.
“This is a victory,” said Leo Murray, an activist and the creator of the balloon. “People love it, he hates it, and it’s driven him out of London.”
Murray and other activists behind the inflatable “Trump Baby” have called the balloon a “symbol of resistance,” aimed at sending Trump a clear message that he is not welcome in Britain.
“The only way to get through to him is to get down to his level and talk in a language he understands one of personal insults,” Murray has said.
Thousands of demonstrators were preparing for a national rally in London to protest Trump’s policies.
“He mocks and insults anyone who doesn’t support him,” said Adam Cottrell, one of the activists behind the balloon protest. “So now he can see what it feels like.”
Not everyone was enthusiastic about the balloon. Lucy Lawson, an American expatriate, came to see it because it was close to her work, but while she opposes Trump’s policies, she said the protest was childish.
“Why are people going down to his level? Why are they being so childish?” she said. “It’s because of his childlike leadership that we are in this mess.”
The working visit was already upended by The Sun’s publication of an interview with Trump in which he gave a harsh assessment of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy and praised Boris Johnson, her Conservative Party rival, as a potentially great prime minister. The article was published just as Trump and May were wrapping up dinner at Blenheim Palace.
Trump spent the night at Winfield House, the American ambassador’s residence in London, where protesters said they had aimed to keep him awake by banging pots and pans and playing recordings of crying children separated from their parents at the Mexican border.
On Friday morning, Trump and his wife, Melania, headed to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for a military display, and were to travel later to Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, for talks with May on a range of foreign policy issues.
Lawson asked one of the organisers why they had launched the balloon when they knew Trump would not be in London.
“It’s going to swamp his Twitter feed,” Cottrell said. “There’s no way he doesn’t see this.”
Thousands of people had signed a petition to have the Trump balloon fly over the golf course in Scotland where Trump plans to spend the weekend, but Scottish authorities turned them down Thursday.
Amid the visit and the reaction to the Trump interview with The Sun, one of the trending hashtags on Twitter was #LoveActually, referring to the 2003 romantic comedy. Twitter users said May should channel Hugh Grant, who plays the British prime minister in the movie, and push back against Trump.
In the movie, the prime minister warns the U.S. president, played by Billy Bob Thornton, that the countries'”special relationship” was in danger of becoming a “bad relationship.”
“We may be a small country, but we’re a great one, too,” he says.
In a news conference at Chequers before the bilateral talks, Trump insisted that he and May had “probably never developed a better relationship” than during Thursday night’s dinner at Blenheim Palace.
“The relationship is very, very strong,” he said. “We really have a very good relationship.”
According to reporters, while seated next to May, he was asked if he regretted his comments to The Sun. Trump appeared to roll his eyes a couple of times but did not answer.