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Donald Trump London protest: Trafalgar Square rally

DONALD Trump backtracked on his combative remarks about Britain on Friday as he called the relationship between the two countries “the highest level of special.”

The US President and wife Melania met with the Queen at Windsor after spending the morning with prime minister Theresa May, but the visit was marred by huge protests over Mr Trump’s presence.

The President joined Mrs May in an awkward joint press conference after slamming her Brexit plan and warning a US-UK trade deal could be off the table in an astonishing interview on Thursday.

Speaking after their meeting a day later, Mr Trump called Mrs May an “incredible woman” who was “doing a fantastic job” and insisted relations “have never been stronger”.

media_cameraDonald Trump converses with the Queen after inspecting the Guard of Honour during his visit to Windsor Castle. Picture: Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP
media_cameraThe Queen welcomed US President in the Quadrangle of the castle. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
media_cameraA Guard of Honour, formed of the Coldstream Guards, gave a Royal Salute and the US National Anthem was played. Picture: AFP Photo/ Brendan Smialowski
media_cameraThe President and First Lady then joined Her Majesty for tea at the castle. Picture Chris Jackson/Getty Images

But the President repeated his observation that Boris Johnson would be a great prime minister.

Mr Trump and Mrs May also clashed on immigration in the news conference, with the President saying it had been “very bad” for Europe and was changing the continent’s culture. The prime minister said the UK had a “proud history” of welcoming people to the country but that it was important to have a “set of rules”.

The President and First Lady then joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle for a military display followed by a traditional tea.

Meanwhile, there were outbreaks of violence in London as demonstrators rallied in protests against Mr Trump’s policies, flying a “Trump baby” blimp over the Houses of Parliament.

media_cameraMr Trump backtracked after his attack on UK prime minister Theresa May in a joint news conference following their meeting at her Chequers residence, northwest of London. Picture: Getty Images / POOL / Jack Taylor
media_cameraMr Trump said the British prime minister was ‘terrific’ and ‘incredible’, after plunging the transatlantic ‘special relationship’ to a new low before their meeting. Picture: AFP Photo / Pool / Jack Taylor
media_cameraMr Trump dropped a bombshell when he said in an interview on Thursday he believed Mrs May’s Brexit plan was not what the people wanted — but he was placatory on Friday. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP

The President had criticised Mrs May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations in an extraordinary interview with The Sun on Thursday, warning that her strategy was not what people wanted — and suggesting it could scuttle a US-UK free trade deal.

But on Friday, the two leaders said they hoped to pursue a bilateral trade agreement, with Mr Trump saying he wanted to ensure the US “can trade and we don’t have any restrictions” on commerce with the UK.

“I have a lot of respect for the prime minister,” said Mr Trump, adding that the News Corp title had not printed the “tremendous things” he said about Mrs May. “I think she’s a terrific woman.”

It came as more than 60,000 people protested against him, with marchers in London on Friday waving “Dump Trump” placards as a six-metre Trump baby balloon flew above the city.

There were heated clashes between anti-Trump protesters near Trafalgar Square and those supporting jailed far-right activist Tommy Robinson. One man was dragged away by police after spitting at an officer, as both groups tried to drown out each other’s chants.

The protesters headed down Regent Street towards Trafalgar Square for a massive rally, carrying signs reading, “You’re not welcome here” and, “Ban guns not Muslims.”

One popular chant was “He’s going home” to the tune of Three Lions (Football’s coming home), the soccer anthem that has been everywhere in England during the World Cup in recent weeks.

media_cameraThe large, orange ‘Trump baby’ balloon was launched from London’s Parliament Square.
media_cameraProtesters young and old gathered in central London to demonstrate against the US President’s visit to the UK on Friday. Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
media_cameraMr Trump said the US-UK relationship was the ‘highest level of special’. Picture: Getty Images / POOL / Jack Taylor

The streets were filled with people watching and shouting out their support. Those taking part in the march were a cross-section of society — young, old, parents and children.

The big balloon depicting Mr Trump as an angry baby clutching a mobile phone was inflated and launched in front of a cheering crowd in the first act on a day of anti-Trump events in London.

The “Trump baby” was sent into the sky above Parliament Square in Westminster before it was grabbed by demonstrators leading the march, as the city put on a massive show of strength against the US President.

One speaker in Parliament Square mocked Mr Trump, saying “Our crowd is bigger than his crowd.”

Another shouted: “The only phobia you’re allowed to have is Trump-phobia!”

Protesters displayed signs reading “Fight racism,” “Trump stole all my bronzer” and “Feed him to the Corgis”, and the roar from the marchers shouting and whistling was deafening.

Jon Spencer, of Kent, said he wouldn’t have missed the protest. “I think history will record him as being very bad and I wanted to be able to say I did something,” he told news.com.au.

He said his main issue was that Mr Trump didn’t seem to care about the damage he was inflicting. “He’s a businessman and is all about the deal and the end result, but it’s how you get there and the effect it has on people he doesn’t seem interested in.”

media_cameraThe six-metre cartoon baby blimp is flown in Parliament Square in front of the scaffolded Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham
media_cameraTens of thousands of marchers were expected to turn out to protest against the US President, who confessed he felt ‘unwelcome’. Picture: AFP Photo / Niklas Hallen

Mr Trump met Mrs May at her country residence Chequers and is largely avoiding London, but US diplomats insisted it has nothing to do with the large-scale demonstrations.

However, he told The Sun he did feel “unwelcome” in the city. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he said in an exclusive interview.

He said he used to love London, but wouldn’t stay anywhere he was made to feel unwelcome.

“And when I say that I am talking about government, because the people of the UK agree with me.”

He claimed to have received thousands of messages from Brits who supported him, and praised a west London pub for renaming itself the Trump Arms. “I love these people. They are my people,” he said.

Mr Trump has a long-running feud with London mayor Sadiq Khan, who he accuses of being soft on terrorism, and suggested the city leader had fuelled the unrest against him.

“I think he has not been hospitable to the government … he might not like the current president, but I represent the United States.”

Hundreds of extra police have been deployed to protect the Trumps and a three-metre high steel fence — dubbed the “ring of steel” — has been set up around the US Ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park, to safeguard against protesters including a group called Keep Trump Awake that aimed to keep Mr Trump awake by making noise throughout the night.

The visit has led to the biggest mobilisation of officers since the 2011 London riots, with police called from all over the UK, at a cost of $18 million. Some forces have had to cancel hundreds of hours of rest days for staff so they can keep their streets safe while colleagues are in London protecting the President.

media_camera‘Dump Trump’ signs were commonplace, along with placards reading ‘Fight racism’ and ‘Ban guns not Muslims’. Picture: AP Photo/Luca Bruno
media_cameraMr Trump slammed May’s Brexit strategy ahead of his visit, and warned it could have a negative impact on any US-UK trade deal. Picture: Getty Images / Pool / Jack Taylor

The US Embassy has even taken the extraordinary step of warning citizens to keep a “low profile” as the protests could “become violent”

Mr Trump visited a British defence facility on Friday with Mrs May, before flying to Chequers for a working lunch.

A farmer whose land is along their flight path has allowed protesters to make a crop circle that spells out “F*** Trump”.

From Chequers, Mr Trump and the First Lady flew to Windsor Castle for an audience with the Queen.

They will then spend the weekend in Scotland — where police were also braced for protests — visiting his golf courses, before flying out on Sunday evening to Helsinki, Finland, for his eagerly awaited summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

media_cameraProtesters against the visit of US President Donald Trump gathered with placards at a barrier set up to block access to the US ambassador’s residence Winfield House in Regent’s Park last night. Picture: AFP


Originally published as Donald Trump’s awkward U-turn

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