WASHINGTON — The U.S. ambassador to Britain said the administration is “aware” of the giant baby Trump balloon that will greet the president on his first official trip to London on Thursday, “but, you know, the president is keenly focused on what his objectives are.”
Trump will stop in the UK between the NATO summit in Brussels and a two-day trip to Glasgow, Scotland, for personal time. He’ll stay one night in London at the U.S. ambassador’s residence at Regent’s Park, Winfield House, and meet with dignitaries away from central London.
On Thursday evening, Trump will attend a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace with about 100 politicians and business figures. On Friday, before flying out, Trump is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire, followed by a joint press conference, and with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.
Protests planned to greet Trump include a 20-foot-tall “baby Trump” balloon clad in a diaper and clutching a cell phone with small hands along with a tuft of yellow hair on his head and a swirl of yellow chest hair. The balloon was paid for through an online crowdfunding effort, and the activists recently received permission from London Mayor Sadiq Khan to launch the balloon from Parliament Square Garden on Friday.
“The mayor supports the right to peaceful protest and understands that this can take many different forms,” said a Khan spokesperson. “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. However, the organizers will also need to receive the necessary approvals from the Metropolitan Police and National Air Traffic Service in order for it to fly.”
A Twitter account used by the organizers quipped that Khan “tried to play hard ball – in the end he had to make a Deal.”
Leo Murray, one of the balloon organizers, wrote in Metro that he and his friends conceived the idea because “to really get through to Trump, you have to get down on his level and talk to him in a language he understands: personal insults.”
“Ridiculing tyrants and despots is a proud British tradition, so we can think of this as the whistling ‘Hitler has only got one ball’ of our times,” Murray wrote. “If this generation is going to have to fight fascism again, we may as well have a bit of a laugh while we are doing it.”
Murray said Khan’s office first said that the baby blimp did not qualify as protest art, so they started an online petition drive to push through their request.
U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson told reporters on a conference call today that Trump “appreciates free speech both in this country and in our country — it’s one of the things that binds us together is the freedoms that we share.”
“But I know he’s going to be very, very focused on the special relationship and in making sure that that’s improved, and that our prosperity and security are enhanced on this trip,” he added.
Johnson said Trump wasn’t being driven away from London by the expected large protests.
“This is a short trip. It’s absolutely packed with things that he has to do. And this — you know, there’s a lot of organization and planning went into it, and that fact is we are in central London. And so, he’ll be spending a lot of time in central London, and using that as a place to go to these other things he has to do that I mentioned earlier,” he said. “So, no, the president is not — is not avoiding anything. The president is merely trying to get as impactful a trip as he can get in a 24-hour period.”