LONDON — “Trump Baby,” a giant inflatable blimp created to protest President Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom, flew high in the sky opposite the Houses of Parliament on Friday as protesters galvanized against the U.S. leader in their tens of thousands.
The 20-foot long, diaper-wearing, smartphone-clutching balloon flew for several hours above hundreds of bystanders, before it was deflated and packed away. It will make its next appearance in Scotland, where Trump will spend the weekend following his two-day working visit to the southeast of England.
A smaller version is accompanying an expected 50,000 protesters on a march and rally in central London.
Trump is largely avoiding the British capital during his stay and is unlikely to see the protests.
Nona Hurkmans, a “Trump Baby” spokesperson, told USA TODAY what the blimp represented how protesters felt about Trump.
“We’re trying to make a statement about Trump’s toxic politics and his policies that we do not agree with,” she said. “We chose the Houses of Parliament because we think there are a lot of parallels between Trump’s politics and the U.K. government such as indefinite detention of migrants, and having very environmentally unfriendly policies.”
Britain is the only EU member without a statutory time limit on the detention of migrants, with thousands held in detention centers for months or years. This week, California Judge Dolly Gee rejected the Trump administration’s request to detain migrant children long-term.
Hurkmans said organizers hope to send “Trump Baby” on a world tour.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave his permission for the blimp to fly. A number of people in red jumpsuits and hi-vis yellow vests with the words “Trump babysitter” emblazoned on their backs stood guard inside the cordon that separated the blimp from the crowd.
“I want to stand up for democracy,” Stephanie Inderbinen, 86, from London, who was holding a sign emblazoned with the words “Fascist Trump” in the location where “Trump Baby” was flying.
“I think (Trump) is destroying democracy, I think he wants to divide and rule, and he wants to support fascism, which is rising in Europe … I think he’s a very dangerous person,” she said.
Trump reportedly said he felt unwelcome in the British capital. Apart from staying in the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park and visiting the new U.S. Embassy, Trump is undertaking most of his engagements outside the capital.
“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?” he reportedly told British tabloid The Sun in an interview published this week. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London.”
Trump later dismissed the Sun story as “fake news,” at a news conference at Chequers, May’s country retreat.
The Sun also reported that Trump warned Prime Minister Theresa May that her plans for keeping close trade ties with the Eeuropean Union after Brexit next year would kill the possibility of a U.S.-U.K. trade deal.
He also went after Khan — London’s first Muslim mayor who he has feuded with in the past over a travel ban for people from several predominately Muslim states — saying he has done a terrible job,” and was “soft on terrorism.”
“He might not like the current president, but I represent the United States,” Trump said.
Ahead of the protests, Khan said in a statement: “I know Londoners are resolutely opposed to the politics of fear and despair. The U.S. has always stood by our side as a beacon for tolerance, openness and respect. This protest is not anti-American – far from it. Most of those marching on Friday will love the United States, just as I do.
“But having a special relationship means that we expect the highest standards from each other, and it also means speaking out when we think the values we hold dear are under threat.”