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Even with an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at London Stansted airport for the American leader’s first official visit to the U.K. Thursday morning amid an expected surge in protests.
According to his itinerary at this point, his only formal event in London – where his unpopularity is high – is a closed press meet and greet at the U.S. embassy on Thursday. Otherwise, he will remain on the outskirts of the city center – which, in some ways, lessens the chance he’ll encounter displays of British criticism of his policies directly.
The trek, coming more than a year and a half into his presidency, does not have the trappings of a state visit. Still, activists, members of Parliament, and the mayor of London are angry about their American guest.
The president’s visit comes after his participation in the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium. At the NATO headquarters, Trump addressed his relations with the U.K. and insisted that it “loves [him].”
“The UK loves me, in fact my mother was from the UK, they love me there even if they are not treating us well with trades, but they will,” he said. “They like me a lot in the UK.”
Widespread protests opposing President Trump’s stay begin Thursday evening and continue through Friday night. London Mayor Sadiq Khan – who has had a particularly contentious relationship with President Trump – approved protesters’ use of a “Trump baby” blimp during the president’s visit to Great Britain. The blimp, which depicts the president as a giant, orange child in a diaper, will fly over Parliament for two hours on Thursday.
The 2004 Green Day hit, “American Idiot” is now skyrocketing to the top of the UK charts ahead of the visit – a boost fueled in large part by the efforts of British protesters and social media.
A coalition known as Together Against Trump has been the chief organizer of the opposition effort. In a statement, the group said it was a “victory that Donald Trump does not appear to have any official engagements in London.”
“Instead he will stay hidden away in country estates and castles,” the statement read.
U.K. prime minister Theresa May will not attend any demonstrations but she has been critical of her American counterpart. Just a few weeks ago, she called the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy “wrong.”
“The pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing,” May stated to the House of Commons.
The president’s visit comes after his participation in the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium. After arriving in Great Britain Thursday evening, Trump and the first lady will dine with May and her husband at Blenheim Palace. On Friday, the two leaders will participate in a bilateral meeting and joint press conference. Trump will then meet the Queen at Windsor Castle.
Although this is Trump’s first official trip to the U.K., he has been invited before.
Like this go-round, protesters promised widespread backlash back in February amid the president’s plans to travel to London for the grand-opening of a new U.S. embassy. When Trump canceled his plans a few weeks before the big day, some – like London Mayor Sadiq Khan – speculated that the expected opposition scared off Trump and was happy about it.
“It appears that President Trump got the message from the many 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,” mayor Khan said in January. “His visit…would, without doubt, have been met by mass peaceful protests.”
The president, in contrast, claimed that he called off his trip because of his predecessor’s decision to sell the old embassy for “peanuts,” a “bad deal” in his eyes.
In June of last year, Trump mocked Khan for his handling of the London Bridge terror attack and called him “pathetic.” The incident resulted in seven deaths and more than 50 injuries.
Khan responded to Trump’s pointed tweets in a television appearance on BBC.
“Some people thrive on feud and division. We are not going to let Donald Trump divide our communities,” he said.