Last week, in a park in Islington, north London, a group of campaigners inflated a six-m-high orange balloon, with the snarling face of the U.S. President, a waft of blonde hair and a nappy, for a test-run to the curiosity (and approbation) of many passers-by. The Trump Baby team are set to fly the balloon up to 30 m above Parliament Square in central London on the day when massive protests are set to take place against Mr. Trump’s visit to the U.K. in mid-July. Funds for the balloon — raised through an online crowd-funding initiative — drew support from across the world, and swiftly exceeded their target many times over. Over 10,000 people signed a petition calling on London’s Mayor to “Let Trump Baby Fly”, when it initially looked like it might not be given the go-ahead.
“Moral outrage is water off a duck’s back to Trump, but he really seems to hate it when people make fun of him,” wrote Leo Murray, who set up the Let Trump Baby Fly petition. “We want to make sure he knows that all of Britain is looking down on him and laughing at him.” The image of Mr. Trump as a baby has taken on added, painful, significance with the separation of families — and detention of young children — that has taken place in recent weeks, says Dan, one of the campaigners.
Ever since Theresa May became the first foreign leader to fly to Washington after the President’s inauguration in 2017 — and extended a return invitation — the prospect of his visit has stoked anger and defiance in Britain. A trip due to take place in February was postponed. According to the President, this was because of his unhappiness with the sale of the old London Embassy, but others were left with little doubt that it was linked to the prospect of mass protests. Mr. Trump had “got the message” that his policies and actions were the “polar opposite” to the city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance, said London Mayor Sadiq Khan at the time. Over 1.8 million people signed a parliamentary petition calling for the U.S. President not to be allowed to come on a state visit.
Carnival of resistance
While details of Mr. Trump’s visit released by Downing Street suggest that he will mostly avoid London, tens of thousands are expected to attend protests and a “carnival of resistance” in the city centre on July 13. Coaches will bring people down to London from across the country while separate local protests will be happening all over, including closer to the places on the President’s route.
The U.K. government has also been forced to agree to cover the £5 million in policing costs for when Mr. Trump is expected to visit Scotland to go golfing during the trip, after objections from the Scottish government. Protests will also take place in Scotland on Saturday.
While some such as former UKIP leader Nigel Farage expressed outrage at Mr. Khan’s decision to allow Trump Baby to fly — he described it as the “biggest insult to a sitting U.S. President ever” — the move was widely hailed on social media and beyond.
The huge amount raised by the Trump Baby team has also enabled the campaigners to extend their ambitions. They plan to use the funds to enable Trump Baby to go on tour globally, and join campaigners protesting against visits by the U.S. President, wherever they take place. “Trump Baby will really complement the protests,” says Mr. Dan. “We all knew that six m is big but you don’t have quite the sense of just how big and striking it is until you see the giant balloon of the President as a combative baby.”
Vidya Ram works for The Hindu and is based in London
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