A British Union flag, commonly known as a Union Jack, hangs against a backdrop of Big Ben in London (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

Trump to Avoid London, Protests With Tour of Country Palaces

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Donald Trump will avoid London as much as possible as he’s whisked off on a tour of prime British real estate to keep him away from protesters during his U.K. visit.

After his arrival Thursday, the president will be taken to Blenheim Palace, the 300-year-old mansion where World War II leader Winston Churchill was born. On Friday he will meet Prime Minister Theresa May at her country estate and later take tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, a family home to the royals for 1,000 years.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of Britons, joined by activists from across Europe, are planning a “Carnival of resistance,” to protest the president’s perceived racism and sexism and his treatment of migrants. Anti-Trump activist Leo Murray raised funds to pay for “Trump Baby,” a six meter-high helium-filled version of the president with unusually small hands and feet and sporting a diaper, which he intends to fly over London.

‘Make Racists Afraid Again’

“My slogan is ‘make racists afraid again.’ Trump’s made them confident; I want to make them afraid,” said Mark Thomas, 49, who will join demonstrators in the capital. “The protest is not only to say that he’s not welcome here, but those of us who believe in an alternative need to stand up for equality and justice.”

Relations between Trump and May have been fraught. Despite being the first world leader to visit him at the White House, the two have never enjoyed a close rapport. He regards her as a bossy schoolmistress; she finds it hard to get a word in on their trans-Atlantic phone calls. At the G-7 meeting in Canada last month, he didn’t find time for a one-to-one meeting with May.

Trump has angered Britons by re-tweeting propaganda from a far-right British anti-Muslim group, criticizing London’s response to terror attacks and leaking intelligence about the Manchester terror attack. Faced with widespread calls to cancel the entire trip, the U.K. has downgraded his visit, meaning most of it can be outside the capital.

Woody Johnson, U.S. Ambassador in London, said the president “appreciates free speech” and isn’t dodging the protests. The purpose of the trip is to focus on the “special relationship” between the two countries, he said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.

‘Not Avoiding’

“The president is not avoiding anything,” Johnson said “He’s getting as impactful a trip as he can in a 24-hour period.”

Trump’s visit has become a focal point for discontent over social issues including inequality, government spending cuts and anti-immigrant sentiment. Some parents are planning to take their children out of school to join the demonstrations.

A long spell of hot weather and faltering Brexit negotiations have done nothing to calm tempers. Police fear the protests could turn violent as anarchist and hard-left groups, reinforced by militants from mainland Europe, mingle with the crowds before coalescing at an agreed signal to attack officers and prominent buildings.

Sixty-three miles from London, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire has been deliberately chosen to impress Trump. Built by a queen grateful to her victorious military chief, the first Duke of Malborough, after the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, it is a triumph of opulent design. The ornate baroque mansion houses a priceless art collection.

It’s here Trump and the first lady will meet British business leaders at a black-tie dinner attended by more than 100 guests. He will be greeted by the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards playing Amazing Grace, among other tunes, which is based on a poem by British slaver John Newton, who repented and campaigned against the trade. Bagpipers will play him out of the dinner.

The 2,000 acres of grounds will muffle the sound of protesters who plan to gather at the gate. Even so, inside there could be a more subtle message for the president. In the Saloon, the marble and gilt-clad room in which most formal dinners are held, a painting on the ceiling depicts the triumphal first Duke of Marlborough restrained by a female figure representing Peace.

Ambassador’s Residence

Trump will sleep overnight Thursday at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in north London, close to London’s Central Mosque, which will sound its call to morning prayer at 3:05 a.m. London Zoo, which houses lions and raucous tropical birds, is also nearby. Protesters outside the residence say they plan to play recordings of crying immigrant children from the Texas border.

Pro-Trump demonstrations have also been organized, including a “welcome party’’ outside the U.S. embassy on Saturday -- even though Trump says that he hates the building. A pub in the west of the capital has changed its name to The Trump Arms for the weekend.

“It is far deeper than Trump; it is what he has come to represent,” said Luke Nash-Jones, 32, who runs a group called Make Britain Great Again and is organizing the event at the embassy. “We admire Trump for standing up for Western values.’’

Lastly, The Queen

On Friday Trump and May will visit a military facility to view U.K. capabilities and integrated training by the two countries before travelling on to Chequers, May’s retreat in Buckinghamshire, north of London, which dates from 1565.

They will hold talks on foreign policy and trade issues and share a working lunch, May’s office said. The mansion is encircled by 1,000 acres of grounds, making it easier to police planned anti-Trump demonstrations in the area.

The president will then travel the 23 miles to Windsor Castle. The Queen, who regards Windsor as a home and recently hosted her grandson’s wedding there, will likely be more relaxed than at her London residence at Buckingham Palace. While officially retired, the queen’s consort, Prince Philip, 97 -- who has a reputation for making politically incorrect jokes -- may also join them.

Melania Trump will rejoin the president for the Windsor visit after conducting her own program, hosted by Philip May, the prime minister’s husband.

That done, the president will fly to Scotland for the weekend and is expected to play a round or two of golf at his Trump Turnberry resort. May’s office declined to comment on reports that Trump would play with a celebrity or member of the royal family at the course, which has hosted the Open Championship.

May’s office, which has promised as much as 5 million pounds ($6.6 million) to cover policing for the Scottish leg of the trip, described it as “a private element of the official visit.”

Trump will spend “a lot of time” in Scotland preparing for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, scheduled for Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, Johnson said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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