LONDON – A week before President Donald Trump’s working visit to Britain, the mayor of London has allowed an additional participant in the city’s welcome reception: a giant orange balloon of the president depicted as a baby in a diaper.
The balloon is part of “Stop Trump” protests planned for the visit starting on July 13. Activist groups and trade unions organized an online petition calling on the mayor to allow the balloon to be flown over Parliament. It drew over 10,000 signatories.
Trump’s visit to Britain was originally scheduled to coincide with the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in January, but it was abruptly canceled with a message on Twitter from the president saying he did not want to inaugurate the building because the Obama administration had paid too much for it.
British and American officials speculated that the real reason Trump had pulled out of the trip was because of the risk of large-scale protests.
At the time, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan — who has had a long-running feud with Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. — said the U.S. president “got the message” from Londoners who “love and admire America and Americans” but find his policies and actions “the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance.”
But later, the trip was on again.
Prime Minister Theresa May extended the invitation to the president during a 15-minute meeting at the World Economic Forum in January — a decision that was met with great opposition from the British public.
Leo Murray, an activist and the creator of the inflatable “Trump Baby,” criticized May for inviting Trump despite a petition signed by nearly 2 million people asking her to scrap the plan, which will reportedly include a visit with Queen Elizabeth.
“It’s on everyone who knows the difference between right and wrong to resist this grotesque excuse for a president when he comes here,” Murray wrote in a column for the newspaper Metro. “He needs to be run out of town, figuratively at least. But how? This is a man who lacks the capacity for moral shame. Liberal outrage just makes him smirk harder.”
Murray suggested that the only way to get through to the president is to “get down on his level and talk to him in a language he understands: personal insults.”
May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump at the White House, in January, in a bid to strengthen relations with Britain’s single largest trading partner outside the European Union before Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.
A spokesman for the mayor said that Khan supported the right to peaceful protests and realized that planned demonstrations could take different forms.
“His city operations team have met with the organizers and have given them permission to use Parliament Square Garden as a grounding point for the blimp,” the representative said in a statement.
The presence of the balloon could further strain relations between the mayor and Trump, who have been involved in a series of Twitter spats over the past year.
The organizers will still need final approval from the Metropolitan Police and from British air traffic control before they can fly the balloon, however.
Trump has inspired other outsize protests. Last year, an artist and documentary filmmaker inflated a giant Trump chicken with a golden coif in view of the White House to try to make a statement about the president being a “weak and ineffective leader.” An anarchist group also displayed nude life-size orange statues of the presidential candidate in U.S. cities.
Nigel Farage, the former leader of the anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party and a Trump supporter, criticized the mayor’s decision to approve the blimp, saying on Twitter that the balloon would make London look ridiculous. “This is the biggest insult to a sitting US President ever,” he wrote.
But Aidan Kerr, a press officer for the Scottish Labour Party, begged to differ. Responding to Farage, he wrote: “We literally burned down the White House in 1814.”