LONDON – President Donald Trump will avoid London as much as possible as he's whisked off on a tour of prime British real estate to keep him away from protesters during his visit to the United Kingdom.
On his arrival Thursday, the president will be taken by helicopter to Blenheim Palace, the 300-year-old mansion where Winston Churchill was born. On Friday, he will meet Prime Minister Theresa May at her country estate and later take tea with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, a family home to the royals for 1,000 years.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of Britons, joined by activists from across Europe, are planning a "Carnival of resistance" to protest the president. Anti-Trump activist Leo Murray raised money to pay for "Trump Baby," a 6-meter-high helium-filled version of the president that has unusually small hands and feet and is sporting a diaper, which he intends to fly over London.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has allowed the giant orange balloon, but the organizers will still need final approval from the Metropolitan Police and from British air traffic control. A spokesman for the mayor said that Khan supported the right to peaceful protests and realized that planned demonstrations could take different forms. The mayor and Trump have been involved in a series of Twitter spats over the past year.
"My slogan is 'make racists afraid again.' Trump's made them confident; I want to make them afraid," said Mark Thomas, 49, who will join demonstrators in the capital. "The protest is not only to say that he's not welcome here, but those of us who believe in an alternative need to stand up for equality and justice."
Relations between Trump and May have been fraught. Despite May's being the first world leader to visit him at the White House, the two have never enjoyed a close rapport. He regards her as a bossy schoolmistress; she finds it hard to get a word in on their trans-Atlantic phone calls. At the G-7 meeting in Canada last month, he didn't find time for a one-on-one meeting with May.
Trump has angered Britons by retweeting propaganda from a far-right British anti-Muslim group, criticizing London's response to terror attacks and leaking intelligence about the Manchester terror attack. Faced with widespread calls to cancel the entire trip, the U.K. has downgraded his visit, meaning most of it can be outside of London.
Police fear the protests could turn violent as anarchist and hard-left groups, reinforced by militants from mainland Europe, mingle with the crowds before coalescing at an agreed signal to attack officers and prominent buildings.
Sixty-three miles from London, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire has been deliberately chosen to impress Trump. A triumph of opulent design, the palace will host Trump's meeting with business leaders. The ornate baroque mansion also houses a priceless art collection.
The 2,000 acres of grounds will muffle the sound of protesters who plan to gather at the gate.
Trump will sleep overnight Thursday at the U.S. ambassador's residence in north London, close to London's Central Mosque, which will sound its call to morning prayer at 3:05 a.m. The London Zoo, which houses lions and raucous tropical birds, is also nearby. Protesters outside the residence say they plan to play recordings of crying immigrant children from the Texas border.
Pro-Trump demonstrations have also been organized, including a "welcome party" outside the U.S. Embassy on Saturday — even though Trump says that he hates the building.
"It is far deeper than Trump; it is what he has come to represent," said Luke Nash-Jones, 32, who runs a group called Make Britain Great Again and is organizing the event at the embassy. "We admire Trump for standing up for Western values."
On Friday, Trump will meet May at Chequers, her retreat in Buckinghamshire, north of London, which dates from 1565. It, too, is encircled by 1,000 acres of grounds, making it easier to police planned anti-Trump demonstrations in the area.
Trump will then travel the 23 miles to Windsor Castle. The queen, who regards Windsor as a home and recently hosted her grandson's wedding there, will likely be more relaxed than at her London residence, Buckingham Palace. While officially retired, the queen's consort, Prince Phillip, 97 — who has a reputation for making politically incorrect jokes — may also join Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
That done, Trump will board his helicopter and fly to Scotland to relax over a round or two of golf at his Trump Turnberry resort.
The New York Times contributed to this report.