LONDON – President Trump began his three-day visit to the United Kingdom on Thursday amid scattered protests and a government deeply divided over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Flying into the capital from Brussels, Trump traveled to Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in the capital, where Trump is staying Thursday night with first lady Melania Trump.
There, approximately 30 protesters had gathered, where they hope to create enough noise to keep Trump awake at night. As the Trumps departed for Blenheim Palace on Marine One, where they were scheduled to dine with Prime Minister Theresa May, protesters could be heard jeering, drum beating and chanting in the distant background.
But while the major protests were planned for Friday afternoon, when an enormous “baby Trump” balloon is expected to float over Parliament Square, protests on Thursday seemed somewhat muted.
Outside May’s 10 Downing Street residence, roughly a dozen protesters gathered to protest the U.S. president’s arrival — but some told Fox News they were disappointed as they had heard that as many as 5,000 were expected to protest.
Lucy Wheeler was the first to arrive: “Where the other 4,999 people are I’m not sure, but I’m here,” she said, carrying a sign that said “Trump Not Welcome.”
Wheeler, who is half-American, said she was protesting on behalf of her American family members who she said have had their lives “dismantled by his really degrading policies and I’m also horrified at the way we seem to be blundering into a future where our great British values don’t count anymore.”
Wheeler said immigration, a subject that is frequently cited by both Trump’s supporters and opponents in the U.K. as their reason for their respective support or opposition, was one of her main issues.
“He’s a disgrace to the office which is a dignified office of the American government and he’s a disgrace,” Wendy Roberts, from South London, said.
Despite the scene in London, plenty of U.K. residents welcomed the president and were dismayed at the demonstrations. In the north of England, the anti-Trump sentiment was not nearly as pronounced.
In Burnley, bordering Lancashire and West Yorkshire and where voters backed Brexit with 66 percent of the vote, local James Banister said, “We owe President Trump courtesy to come into our country in the memory of all the thousands of thousands of people who fought in the two world wars on our side.”
But back in London, Khadija and Nikita, who declined to give their last names, said that immigration was the main focus of their ire against Trump: “I just don’t understand his values, they’re just so backward,” Nikita said.
They were also disappointed by the crowd size: “I was hoping it would be a lot bigger, we heard it was going to be about 5,000 people,” Khadija said.
The few protesters started up a brief chant before it petered out: “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump, go away.”
After a while, some Trump supporters arrived and argued with the anti-Trump protesters. Bashkim Krasniqi, an immigrant from Kosovo, accused the protesters of not valuing free speech — a claim they rejected.
“I’m sorry but I’m so passionate,” Krasniqi told Fox News after getting into a shouting match with demonstrators. “They won’t stop me because they want to silence me. This is Britain, my friend. They have their opinions and I have mine. They hate him, I love him.”
James Jackson, 18, had traveled from near Manchester to show his support for Trump and was proudly wearing a “Build the Wall” T-shirt. He was hoping to attend a pro-Trump rally to be held outside the U.S. Embassy on Saturday.
“I like his style of governing, it’s completely different from what we have here where people don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. “He’s a very good leader, doesn’t take any nonsense and I agree with most of his policies.”
Jackson also approved of Trump’s hardline stance on Brexit — a fiery debate in the U.K. as Britain heads towards its exit from the E.U. in March next year.
May is fighting for her political life after the resignation of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis this week in protest of her latest Brexit plan — which critics say is too soft and will lead to Britain being a “colony” of the E.U.
That accusation from those in favor of a so-called “hard Brexit,” appeared to be partly shared by Trump, who added coal to the fire by suggesting May’s plan wasn’t what Brits voted for in 2016.
“I would say Brexit is Brexit…the people voted to break it up,” Trump said at a press conference in Brussels earlier Thursday. “So I would imagine … that’s what they’ll do but maybe they’re taking a bit of a different route. So I don’t know if that’s what they voted for.”
On Friday, Trump’s agenda will include meetings with both Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister May, with whom he will hold a much-anticipated joint press conference.
Fox News’ Matt Leach contributed to this report.
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Trump starts UK leg amid scattered protests, Brexit divisions
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