My recent trip to London coincided with Trump’s state visit on June 4th. The media predicted protests- as did my taxi driver the day before, who, in a genteel sort of British way, offered the opinion that the protestors needed to get a job.
So I went downtown that morning of Trump’s state visit, in search of protest-like activity. Admittedly, I was also in search of the infamous balloon that appeared the last time Trump came to London.
Upon exiting the Tube at Westminster, the Trump baby balloon (above) was immediately in front of me. I spent the next hour or so drawing what I saw, sitting on a stone wall and listening to all the activity around me. Sitting next to me, I heard an American and a Brit discussing politics, and as I drew, people came and went- some there to express their political ideas, others passing through. The signage was mixed and not as creative as some I’d seen in US marches. There were supporters of the President, too, shouting “Welcome Trump!” . The anti-trump contingent was much greater and significantly louder, yelling back. But both were there. There were religious Jesus chanters and Hare Krishnas, taking advantage of the gathered crowd. Many were in support of Trump.
I saw a lot of police, some mounted on stately and very calm horses. The sentiment was primarily pro-America (I overheard support for the strong U.K.- US bond and for the country as a whole), but clearly anti-trump. I did see one negative sign about the US, although even this one could arguable be about the current administration.
There were Brexit signs and other signs about the U.K. — and a Boris Johnson look alike, dressed in prison garb.
At one point, I noticed a line of police standing together; it became clear it was actually a circle of police, facing outwards. They were protecting a group of Trump supporters, most of whom were wearing Make America Great Again (MAGA) red hats. The crowd around them was angry; the red capped supporters seemed calm. Eventually the police quickly escorted the supporters to a nearby van, as the crowd around them followed and yelled. The van sped the Trump supporters away to safety.
It was fascinating to watch this unfold , and a little scary, to be honest. I am glad I was there to draw this on the spot. The police successfully diffused what could have been a riot.
Trump was scheduled to visit 10 Downing Street this same morning and have a press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May. I stood as close as I could get to the area and drew the police guarding the area.
As I wandered, it became clear to me that as I was drawing the Trump balloon earlier, I had missed the major rally near Trafalgar Square. But I had seen a lot. Eventually the crowds dispersed, and signage was everywhere on the ground.
Before I left the area, I went into a nearby pub to use the facilities. It was the only one around, and it was packed with beer drinkers, many of whom seemed to be tired but energized organizers, talking politics. I decided to join in and stood at the bar with a Guinness. An older man next to me asked if I had been protesting. I said no, just observing. He told me he had been marching; we briefly touched on the subject of Trump but ended up sharing our respective affection for our hometowns, NYC and London.
I ducked back down into the tube to join Londoners as they presumably carried on with their daily routines.