Fears grow over Donald Trump protest backlash

White House officials afraid thin-skinned president could lash out at his hosts

An anti-Trump protest outside Parliament last year
(Image credit: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

Fears are growing that huge protests planned to mark Donald Trump’s UK visit on Friday could create a backlash from the US president that further worsens transatlantic relations at a crucial time for Nato.

The Sunday Times reports that White House officials are afraid that widespread demonstrations and the appearance of a giant Trump “angry baby” blimp over the Houses of Parliament could mar the trip and cause the notoriously thin-skinned American leader to lash out at his hosts.

A BMG survey for The Independent showed more people opposed Theresa May’s decision to invite him to Britain and thought she should be more critical of her opposite number. But it also “revealed a pragmatic streak in public opinion” says the news site, with more people thinking the UK should make “every effort” to oblige the US leader to secure a quick trade deal after Brexit.

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Last week it was announced the president was set to meet the Queen at Windsor, the prime minister at her country residence Chequers and watch a military ceremony at Blenheim Palace - Winston Churchill’s birthplace - during his two-day ‘working visit’.

Following recent criticism from Trump over Nato members’ defence spending, the London Evening Standard says the schedule is designed to highlight military ties between the UK and US but also keep the president away from huge protests planned in London. Trump will not visit Downing Street and will only stay in the US ambassador’s residence near Regent’s Park for one night.

White House officials, however, pointed out that he was a voracious watcher of television and would be keenly aware of what was happening in the capital.

The Police Federation has warned the visit will put “unquestionable pressure” on UK police forces, with thousands of officers deployed from their home forces.

Rights groups and activists have urged police to allow free protests during the visit, warning against a repeat of the political pressure alleged to have been seen during an equally contentious visit by China’s president.

The Guardian reports that during Xi Jinping’s visit in 2015, some activists seeking to protest 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”.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International’s head of policy, said visits by overseas leaders were “an opportunity for the UK to show that peaceful protest is an essential component of a free and fair society, not something to be shut down as a political embarrassment”.

“We want to see UK police facilitating peaceful protest, not closing it down to appease their visitors” he added.

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