LONDON—Thousands of Brits took to the streets here Tuesday, where they marched alongside a 16-foot farting robot of Donald Trump and held aloft huge photos of John McCain in an attempt to trigger the president.
The protests—which saw thousands brave the typical British weather shielded by umbrellas emblazoned with anti-Trump slogans, EU flags, and the LGBTQ rainbow symbol—went within meters of Downing Street, where the president must have heard creatively foul-mouthed chants, although he still insists there have been no protests against him at all.
Protesters were kept away from the gates of Downing Street for Trump’s arrival and departure for talks with Theresa May. However, the thousands occupied a large stretch of central London, marching from Trafalgar Square past the government buildings of Whitehall and eventually arriving outside parliament to hear a speech by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
As always, the protesters in Britain clearly put a lot of effort into their preparations to mock Trump. The most eye-catching part of the parade was a huge robotic statue named the Trump Dump, which featured the gigantic president atop a golden toilet, with a smartphone in his agitating hand. It emitted farting noises and the catchphrase “no collusion.”
“I wanted to honor him by showing him in all his glory,” the monster’s creator, Don Lessem, explained to The Daily Beast, claiming it cost him $25,000 of his own cash. “It’s 16 feet, which is the size of his ego. We wanted to match that. It needs to be a little more orange I think, but we tried to do it as proportionally accurate as possible, so his penis is three millimeters.”
Lessem’s ultimate goal is to crowdfund an effort to bring the robot to Washington, D.C. for the July 4 celebrations, but he was proud to give it its “world debut” to coincide with the president’s trip to London.
There were thousands of slightly less extravagant attempts to ridicule the president during his visit. On Monday, he dubiously claimed that he had been greeted by “tremendous crowds of well wishers” rather than protests and that there was “great love all around” on his first state visit.
On the contrary, the crowd couldn’t have displayed any more antipathy for him, even though there appeared to be smaller numbers than a huge protest against him last year. Signs showed various degrees of exasperation, ranging from the playful “Who invited this wally anyway?” to the frank “You’re a racist twat, mate,” to the laconic “Fuck this fucking fucker.”
One popular choice appeared to be showing images of the late Senator John McCain, following reports last week that the White House ordered the USS John S. McCain to be hidden from Trump’s sight in Japan.
Jeffrey Kaser Paradi explained to The Daily Beast: “I never thought I’d be holding a photograph of a Republican ever in my life, but after last week when the White House instructed the Navy to cover up the name of the battleship for fear of triggering Donald Trump. You know, I’d just hate for him to see an image of him on his trip here to the U.K..”
The protest was largely good-natured and police seemed relaxed. It was clear that the protest was also about Britain’s own political crises, with the anti-Trump marchers displaying a lot of support for the European Union and the pro-Trump marchers being very supportive of Brexit.
There were some scenes in the crowd that perhaps went slightly too far when the two sides clashed. One small, paper U.S. flag was torn from one pro-Trump marcher and stomped upon, while a Make America Great Again hat was snatched from the head of a Trump supporter and dumped in a fresh pile of dung left behind by one of the police horses.
But the anti-Trump marchers’ activity was largely limited to chants and songs, a lot of which were based on classic British music. For example, a somewhat predictable remix of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” that replaced the word “brick” with something a little ruder.
Trump supporters were vastly outnumbered, largely white and male, and they were significantly angrier than the anti-Trump marchers. They marched with QAnon and anti-George Soros flags, were abusive toward rival protesters, and many proudly espoused extreme right-wing views.
One group calling itself Scots for Trump gathered at the protest with a big banner and were led by a well-known activist, Alistair McConnachie, who has previously made headlines in Scotland for denying that Jews were murdered in gas chambers in Nazi Germany. “That’s not something I would speak about because whenever you speak about it only gets yourself into hot water,” he told The Daily Beast when questioned about it.
McConnachie’s main beliefs appeared to be supporting Trump for “standing up very strongly for the principle of borders,” while also campaigning vociferously against Scottish independence. Asked why he supports a rigid border system between Mexico and the U.S. but argues so strongly against it between England and Scotland, his only attempt at an explanation was that the Scottish border “only exists in the imagination.”
During a press conference with May later Tuesday, Trump wrongly claimed there were “thousands of people” on the streets cheering him on both days of his visit so far and that he didn’t see any protesters. He does have supporters, but from Tuesday afternoon’s evidence they appeared to be nothing more than a handful of oddballs with extreme views.
Trump could be confused or, more likely, willfully wrong. But if he wants to see the evidence for himself he need only pop outside, with an umbrella.