How People In The U.K. Are Protesting President Trump's Visit

Jul 13, 2018
Originally published on July 13, 2018 5:44 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Another topic at this morning's press conference - immigration. The president stood by comments he made to The Sun that immigration has degraded Europe's cultural fabric.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I just think it's changing the culture. I think it's a very negative thing for Europe. I think it's very negative.

CHANG: May, for her part, took a different tone.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: We have a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to our country to contribute to our economy and contribute to our society. And over the years, overall immigration has been good for the U.K.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

So that is the high-level view of what's unfolded here in the U.K. today. Let me take you down now to the street level. We are in Trafalgar Square. This is the unofficial heart of London. Protesters started massing sometime around lunchtime. They are still going strong many hours here later. And look who we have just managed to connect with in this crowd. We have caught up with our man in London, Frank Langfitt. Hello.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Good to see you outside in daylight.

LANGFITT: Yeah, it is nice. It's been a long day.

KELLY: It has been a long day. You've been reporting all day. You've been following this protest. How's it going?

LANGFITT: Yeah, it started off, as you said, around lunchtime. It was really interesting, as we work - and I work in the BBC. And so you can look all the way down Regent Street, and it was filled with people. And I would say this looks like easily tens of thousands of people and around the size - maybe larger than the Women's March which was to coincide with Trump's inauguration.

KELLY: And people are protesting all kinds of things, mostly focused on - they don't like Trump, a lot of people who are out here today. What were they saying about overall state of the U.S.-U.K. relationship?

LANGFITT: Not good. I think that what happened overnight where President Trump went to Blenheim Palace and there was a lovely dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May - and then right afterwards, right around that time, story broke in which he was really very critical of her in the British press. And people were very - didn't like that at all. And in fact, I was talking to a guy today just actually on the sidewalk here. His name is Nick Barber (ph). He's a consultant. And I said to him, what's the state of the special relationship? And here's what he said.

NICK BARBER: It's gibberish. It's rubbish. There is no special relationship. Trump is looking out for Trump ultimately. Yes, he may say making America great again, but he's undermined Theresa May on a number of occasions.

LANGFITT: His take on it was that Trump had kind of soiled - he used the word soiled - the relationship. But he did think it could recover perhaps with another president.

KELLY: Also unfolding not too far from here over by Parliament today was the rise of the Trump baby blimp.

LANGFITT: Yes.

KELLY: That was - he was only up for a couple of hours, though. What happened?

LANGFITT: He was, but he made a big impression. And I think that he was - if there was a star of these protests, it was the Trump baby blimp. And it was launched right in Parliament Square, which of course - you have Westminster Abbey, you have Big Ben. It's a center of government here. And when I saw him, he was actually on his way down, and he was deflating because he only had a couple of hours. And it was a very strange scene because it almost looked like the crowds were around him and like he was being gobbled by the crowds. I've got to be honest with you, it was very, very odd experience.

KELLY: Let me take you back to the strategic level just for a second, back to this whole luncheon meeting and then press conference that Donald Trump and...

LANGFITT: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Theresa May held. Their visit - I mean, to put it mild, they got off to a really rocky start with this interview in The Sun. But then they gave a press conference, and they were all best friends forever. So what happened?

LANGFITT: Well, I mean, they kind of tried to gloss over it. I mean, Donald Trump tried to back off some of the things that he said. I don't know that people here in Trafalgar Square or anywhere in London will believe that because he didn't say - I mean, the quotes are all on tape. He said what he said. I think what people were very disturbed with with President Trump - we saw this in Brussels - is - I guess we saw this also with the G-7. He will be very nice publicly to allies, but then he undercuts them at every turn. And I think that really makes people very uneasy about the relationship.

KELLY: Were you - as you were out and about interviewing people on the streets here today, were you asking about reaction to The Sun interview?

LANGFITT: I was. And a lot of the people right now - they have not focused on this yet. The press conference was relatively recent. And people were actually - as the press conference was going on, people were coming into the streets.

KELLY: There are a lot of questions about exactly when Theresa May may have found out about this interview and what exactly she knew at what stage of this visit. As you talk to people about this, just ordinary people...

LANGFITT: Yeah, I did. And this really bothers people. There is an official politeness, as you know. You've lived here in London. And there's a lot of protocol. And certainly what he did doesn't fall into that, is way beyond sort of what would be considered acceptable. I was talking to a woman named Alex Dunlop (ph). She's a life coach. And she said that this was all terrible form.

ALEX DUNLOP: If you're really going to go to dinner with somebody and then complain about everything they do, it's, if nothing else, excessively foolish and rude.

KELLY: One of the many people out on the streets of London today who has been talking to our Frank Langfitt, NPR's London correspondent. Frank, thank you for meeting me here on Trafalgar Square today.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.