Jeremy Corbyn addresses anti-Trump protest
Jeremy Corbyn has addressed thousands of people who took to London’s streets in protest on the second day of Donald Trump’s state visit.
The US president said he refused to meet the Labour leader and dismissed reports of demonstrations as “fake news”.
Mr Corbyn, who refused to attend a state banquet on Monday evening, spoke to crowds from a stage in Whitehall on Tuesday afternoon.
“In welcoming visitors to the United States, I hope there can be a conversation,” he said.
“I am not, absolutely not, refusing to meet anybody. I want to be able to have that dialogue to bring about the better and more peaceful world that we all want to live in.
“But I’m very disappointed, particularly today, on the wonderful festival of Eid, that our Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been attacked as he has.
“I am proud that our city has a Muslim mayor, that we can chase down Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, any form of racism within our society because racism divides.”
Mr Trump attacked the mayor on Twitter moments before he landed in the UK, reigniting a war of words between the pair.
During a press conference with Theresa May on Tuesday, Mr Trump said he refused to meet the Labour leader, describing him as a “somewhat negative force”.
Earlier on Tuesday, the 20ft Trump baby blimp, which became the focus of last year’s protest during Mr Trump’s first visit to the UK as president, took to the skies for a second time after permission was granted by the Greater London Authority.
A team of organisers wearing red jumpsuits and hats marked “Trump Babysitters” launched the balloon to cheers from dozens of onlookers at Parliament Square, where nearby roads were sealed off and police stood guard in anticipation of large protests.
Shaista Aziz, from the Stop Trump coalition, said the blimp of the nappy-clad president clutching a mobile phone has “captured the world’s imagination”.
“We know that this will definitely annoy Trump,” she said.
Some protesters shouted expletives as the president’s motorcade passed the flying blimp on his way to Downing Street.
One group estimated tens of thousands of protesters were involved in the demonstrations – fewer than an estimated 250,000 who gathered when Mr Trump visited the UK on July 13 last year.
Dan Jones, a Trump blimp group “babysitter”, said: “We’re no strangers to the rain in the UK yet it’s still something special when tens of thousands hit the streets on a wet working day.
“That’s as strong a rejection of Trump’s politics as you could ask for.”
But Mr Trump said: “I didn’t see the protesters until just a little while ago and it was a very, very small group of people put in for political reasons, so it was fake news.”
Organisers of the Together Against Trump protest billed it as a “carnival of resistance”, with demonstrators gathering at Trafalgar Square from 11am to declare a “Trump-free zone”.
A 16ft talking robot of the president sitting on a gold toilet, which says the phrases “No collusion”, “You are fake news” and “I’m a very stable genius” – the audio of which is Mr Trump’s own voice – became a focal point for onlookers.
One protester was selling toilet paper with Mr Trump’s face printed on it.
Climate change activists, students, pacifists, trade union members and families were among those gathered, along with Handmaids Against Trump – women draped in red with white hoods in homage to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about a crackdown on reproductive rights.
Trump supporters also took to the streets to show their backing for the president.
Lewis Metcalfe, 28, from Richmond in North Yorkshire, said he took a day off work to travel to London and offer “a difference of opinion”.
“I’m obviously going to be a minority today. I’m not here to troll, to cause a riot or cause disruption,” said Mr Metcalfe, who was at Parliament Square wearing a Make America Great Again cap.
“I don’t agree with all his policies. He’s not the greatest president in the world but he does get things done.
“I think it (the protest) is a little bit hypocritical because you get hundreds of thousands of people for Donald Trump today and yet we had minuscule, maybe hundreds of people, for Xi Jinping and Mohammed Bin Salman.”
A huge police and security operation is under way, with more than 3,182 officers deployed and road closures in place, while protesters were barred from demonstrating directly outside Downing Street.
Scotland Yard’s Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee on Tuesday the policing plan has so far worked “effectively”.
He said the force is not in a position to estimate how much the operation will cost but added the US president’s last visit to the capital cost the Met about £2.9 million.