LONDON • Thousands gathered at London's Trafalgar Square and nearby Parliament Square yesterday to protest against United States President Donald Trump's policies, on the second day of his state visit to Britain.
By 9am, a small crowd had gathered at Parliament Square in Westminster to watch as a giant balloon, depicting Mr Trump as a pouting baby in a diaper, was inflated with helium. It was first seen last July on Mr Trump's working visit to London.
Known as the Trump Baby Blimp, the 6m-tall balloon took flight for two hours from 10am (5pm Singapore time), hovering a few metres above the ground - high enough for anyone in the area to see, including the US delegation that was en route to No. 10 Downing Street.
Strong winds on a gloomy day meant that the crowd-funded inflatable balloon could not fly as high as first envisioned.
More onlookers and protesters trickled into Parliament Square by mid-morning, while many more had gathered at Trafalgar Square. Still, the numbers seemed much smaller in the early hours, suggesting that passions that drove protesters there last year - organisers said 250,000 turned up last July - have dampened. Perhaps, the weather had a part to play.
Speaking to The Straits Times at Parliament Square, Ms Anna Vickerstaff, one of the organisers behind the Trump Baby Blimp, said: "We are here today as part of a wider protest against Trump's politics.
"We have seen time and time again that Trump doesn't listen to facts or reason or science. He speaks in a language of insults. This (the balloon) is essentially a light-hearted caricature, part of a history of political satire in the United Kingdom that a big bully like Trump deserves a big baby blimp."
She added: "Today is much more than a balloon. Today is about a gathering of thousands of people who are affected and offended by his policies and politics."
Last year, Mr Trump had said that he did not feel welcomed, and this year, protest organisers hoped he would be equally annoyed and angered by the demonstrations.
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the central London protests, dubbed the "Carnival of Resistance" against the US President, after boycotting Monday night's state banquet at Buckingham Palace.
Protests also took place around the country, from Oxford to Chester.
Trafalgar and Parliament squares were peppered with placard-wielding demonstrators protesting over issues such as nuclear war, climate change and women's rights. One sign read: "Climate change is real. Your tan isn't."
Retired teacher Graham Watson and his retiree wife Elaine made their way to central London from Bath, two hours west of the city, just to make their voices heard.
Mr Watson, 67, said: "We are protesting against Trump's visit to the UK because we don't like him, basically.
"We think he is a racist, a misogynist - we have got enough of our own, and we don't need Trump here as well. We don't think he should have been invited (on a state visit)."
Rebecca Lynne Tan