London to greet Trump with angry baby balloon

Balloon with a view: The six-metre tall blimp will be suspended near Parliament Square. © Jason Hawkes

Is this a perfect British protest or an immature insult? A bawling effigy of Donald Trump will float above the capital on Friday. Some say it is the activists who are having a tantrum.

After touching down in the UK, President Donald Trump will spend Thursday night at Winfield House, the expansive Regent’s Park home of the US ambassador. The 12-acre plot may shield him from the 50,000 protesters expected to take to the streets of the capital during his three-day visit, but his critics have found a way to assert their presence nonetheless.

On Friday, above the iconic Houses of Parliament, a six-metre tall orange balloon depicting the US president as a screaming baby, mobile phone in tiny hand, will punctuate the blue sky. London Mayor Sadiq Khan approved the protest last week after organisers crowdfunded more than £20,000. Khan hailed it as a symbol of “peaceful protest”, while organiser Leo Murray explained that activists hope to “talk to him in a language he understands: personal insults.”

The president will not hang around to see the unflattering blimp. Trump is spending only one night in London amid claims he is reluctant to face demonstrators. Trump’s first official UK visit has been delayed twice already. His busy itinerary for the weekend includes dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, talks with Theresa May at Chequers and tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle before he heads to Scotland.

It is “the biggest insult to a sitting US president ever”, declared Nigel Farage, claiming the plan will “make London look ridiculous”. Journalist Barbara Ellen, however, described it as a quintessentially British work of mischief.

But it’s not just the British who have directed outlandish demonstrations at Trump: last August protesters inflated a giant Trump chicken with a golden comb near the White House, and an anarchist group installed nude life-size statues of the president in American cities.

In The Sunday Times, Rod Liddle attacked such tactics as psychological projection. He describes the balloon protest as “a mass toddler tantrum by people who cannot bear to hear views that diverge from their own half-baked opinions.”

Is this a perfect British protest or an immature insult?

Trumped up

It’s brilliant, say some. Britain has a proud tradition of holding politicians to account through humour, and Trump has shown time and time again that insults are the only way he can communicate. Moreover, it sets a dangerous precedent if the authorities block a peaceful protest to appease a leader whom a portion of the British public view as a borderline tyrant.

It’s inappropriate, argue others. Trump is a democratically elected leader, therefore the balloon is an insult to our allies in the US. It makes the British people look infantile and petty. We should confront those we disagree with in mature debate, not through idiotic stunts.

You Decide

  1. Is the balloon protest a good idea?
  2. Do democratically elected politicians always deserve respect?

Activities

  1. Research one of Trump’s major policies. Write a paragraph on why you do or do not agree with it.
  2. The 2003 march against the Iraq War was the biggest protest in London’s history. Do some research to learn more about it and write a page on the causes behind the protest.

Some People Say...

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.”

Henry David Thoreau

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Donald Trump will arrive in the UK with his wife Melania on Thursday afternoon. They will attend a dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire before spending the night at Winfield House in London’s Regents Park. On Friday, the couple will meet with Theresa May at Chequers and the Queen at Windsor Castle. Trump will then fly to Scotland on Friday evening, where he will stay until Sunday. The president owns two golf resorts in Scotland.
What do we not know?
How Trump will respond to the baby balloon or whether he will address it at all. Figures within the Republican Party have suggested Trump may make jokes at the expense of the activists or use it as ammunition to attack what he calls the “fake news” pedalled by his critics and the media.

Word Watch

Sadiq Khan
The US president and the mayor of London have had several spats. Trump previously lashed out at Khan for telling Londoners not to be alarmed after the London Bridge terror attack, while Khan has called Trump a “buffoon”.
Chequers
The prime minister’s country house in Buckinghamshire. David Lloyd George was the first prime minister to assume the residence in 1921.
Quintessentially
A perfect or typical example of something. “Quintessentially British” means it is a classic example of British culture or attitudes.
Comb
The fleshy red area at the top of a chicken’s head. This was designed to resemble Trump’s distinctive blond hair.
Psychological projection
A defence mechanism whereby people project their undesirable feelings or qualities onto someone else, rather than admitting these failings to themselves.
Infantile
Childish; immature.

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