Thousands Protest Trump Across the U.K. in First Official Visit to Great Britain (Live Blog)

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Natasha Hakimi Zapata.

An estimated 50,000 to 100, 000 people are expected to gather at more than 60 official protests organized across the United Kingdom on Friday to demonstrate against President Donald Trump’s first visit to America’s historical ally.

While several planned visits to Great Britain had been cancelled since his inauguration, including a recent date in February, the July 13 trip was confirmed in the spring, after which activists quickly began to  organize demonstrations to show Brits’ disapproval of both Trump and his policies.

The “Stop Trump” coalition started a Facebook page where hundreds of thousands people marked their intention to attend Friday’s day of action in London, and plans were announced for buses to bring activists into the capital city from across Britain. The protest is set to start at 2:00 p.m. GMT (6:00 a.m. PDT) outside the BBC headquarters and culminate in a 2-hour rally in Trafalgar Square from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. GMT (9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. PDT).

Owen Jones, a well known young leftist activist who writes for The Guardian and who co-hosted the Facebook event with the Stop Trump Coalition, posted periodic updates about the event, including on Thursday, the day the U.S. president arrived on British soil.

Another protest organized in the largest U.K. city by the Women’s March London is set to go from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. GMT (3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. PDT), ending in a rally in Parliament Square.

It’s no secret many Brits and U.K. residents are unhappy about Trump’s visit. During the 2016 American election campaign, two of the petitions to receive the most signatures in British history were debated in Parliament: one was a call for Trump, then only a presidential candidate, to be banned from entering the U.K. due to several campaign speeches that incited hate; the other was a demand the borders be kept open to the man who could someday become the president of one of Britain’s closest allies. At the time of the debate, however, most Members of Parliament present seemed doubtful he would be elected.

Read Truthdig’s exclusive coverage from within the walls of the Houses of Parliament: ‘Free to Be a Fool’: Behind the Scenes at the British Parliament’s Debate on Banning Trump

After Trump was elected, 1.8 million British citizens and residents also signed another petition asking Parliament not to plan a state visit. In a recent piece, Truthdig contributor Juan Cole explains why Prime Minister Theresa May likely decided to move forward with the visit, despite public disapproval.

Most observers are puzzled as to why British Prime Minister Theresa May is hosting a Trump visit to her country, a visit that is likely to put a couple hundred thousand protesters in the streets of London alone and to offer opportunities for serial embarrassment to all concerned.

Some 45 percent of the British don’t want a Trump visit at all. This statistic is shocking. What are 55 percent of Britons thinking? Still, the negative number with regard to a visit of a U.S. president is unprecedented. London will permit a satiric float to be flown mocking “baby Trump.”

It seems likely that May is hoping that Trump will help out Britain with the fallout of the Brexit decision. By leaving the European Union (as Trump himself urged them to do), Britons are essentially raising their own taxes by 7 percent to 29 percent with regard to services and imports originating in Europe. And, of course, they are essentially placing a voluntary export tariff on the goods and services they send to other European countries, putting themselves at a vast economic disadvantage.

So if trade and services with Europe will fall off, how will the U.K. pick up the slack?

Well, Trump could do May some favors with regard to U.S.-British trade.

Read more.

The U.S. president’s visit has been planned so as to avoid areas where protesters are expected to gather. In the run up to the demonstrations, Amnesty International “warned against a repeat of the scenes in London when Xi Jinping visited in 2015 [when] some activists seeking to protest against Xi complained they were corralled out of his view, allowing his route in London to be lined mainly by supportive Chinese nationals seemingly organised by Beijing officials,” The Guardian reports.

A lot of the media coverage in the U.S. regarding the protests has centered around a crowd-funded blimp of Trump portrayed as a large orange baby with a cellular phone in his hand. The blimp, which was approved by the office of London City mayor Sadiq Kahn, was permitted to float in Parliament Square from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. GMT (1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. PDT).

 

Trump responded to the blimp, telling media, “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London … I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?”

Truthdig’s Natasha Hakimi Zapata will be on the scene in London’s Parliament Square on Friday where she’ll ask protesters and bystanders what they think about the U.S. president and the big, bright blimp. She’ll also be reporting from both the Women’s March and the Stop Trump Coalition rally.

Follow along Hakimi Zapata’s live updates from London on our  Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as below.