Read: Trump’s combative visit with America’s closest ally
Yes, protesters in central London carried through the streets a large statue of the 45th president sitting on a gold-painted toilet, phone in hand. Yes, the “Trump baby” blimp, which debuted above Westminster last year during a presidential visit, was lofted into overcast, drizzly skies as Trump met privately with May to talk about future trade deals. And yes, a group of critics puckishly projected the president’s approval ratings in Britain alongside Barack Obama’s to illustrate how little he is liked here.
But, in Trump’s telling, that’s only part of the story. He said that as he’s motorcaded around the city over the past two days, he’s seen “thousands of people on the streets cheering.”
There are ways to shield a visiting president from street images he may find unpleasant. At one time in the planning of this trip, Trump was supposed to ride to Buckingham Palace in the traditional horse-drawn carriage. That idea was scuttled, though, when authorities warned the ride would be difficult to police. Instead, Trump arrived to greet Queen Elizabeth II by helicopter, landing in a secluded part of the palace gardens on Monday with no view of the street.
If the president was determined to evade the protesters, though, the protesters made sure to find him. In many ways, the demonstration resembled the mass protests that took place when Trump visited last year. Then, like now, thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square wielding signs saying #DUMPTRUMP, TRUMP NOT WELCOME, and BUGGER OFF!
Still, there were some differences from a year ago. For one, Trump was correct that attendance was off. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Westminster last year, but the turnout wasn’t as high this time. Before protesters began their march from Trafalgar Square toward 10 Downing Street, where Trump and May were meeting, one police officer at the scene estimated that 5,000 people were in attendance. (Organizers behind the Together Against Trump protest estimated that 75,000 people attended by the end of the event, and Ash Sarkar, an activist and one of the protest organizers, told The Atlantic that those numbers were depressed because of the rainy weather and the time—it was a weekday.)
Read: Don’t expect Trump’s Europe trip to go smoothly
A number of British politicians took part in the protest, including the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was among the British leaders to boycott Monday night’s state banquet for the president at Buckingham Palace. “I want to live in a world that survives, that thrives. You do that by respecting the world, respecting each other,” Corbyn told protesters on Whitehall, just feet away from the hall where Trump and May were meeting with journalists.