Security preparations near the US Ambassador's residence Winfield House, in Regent's Park, London, ahead of the visit to the UK of President Donald Trump, who will spend Friday night at the residence.

PA Images/Sipa USA

Trump brings own wall of steel on UK visit as protesters gather

"The President is not avoiding anything," said U.S. Ambassador to London, Woody Johnson.

July 12, 2018 - 8:18 am

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

(CNN) -- When Donald Trump arrives Thursday in Britain -- a country he described this week as "somewhat in turmoil" -- he will find his own wall set up even as preparations for protests against his visit are in full swing.

Tall metal mesh barricades and concrete blocks have been erected around the perimeter of the US Ambassador's swanky central London residence, Winfield House, where the US President will spend Thursday night.

A sign attached to the fence reads: "No access -- do not enter. A police security operation is taking place. This includes armed patrols, dog patrols, monitored CCTV and other measures." Any contravention, it warns, "could result in force being used against you, your arrest and/or prosecution."

The extra security measures may strike Londoners as incongruous, set amid the leafy surrounds of Regent's Park, a spot popular with joggers, families and picnickers.

Winfield House is the only place where Trump will spend time in central London, where protesters are expected to gather in their tens of thousands for a march on Friday afternoon, hours after a giant "Trump baby" balloon is flown near the UK Parliament in an eye-catching stunt.

But the US Ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, insisted last week that the President's itinerary was not intentionally designed for him to avoid encountering throngs of protesters.

"The President is not avoiding anything," he said. "The President is merely trying to get as impactful a trip as he can get in a 24-hour period."

Johnson added that the President "appreciates free speech" and that he was "very focused on the special relationship" between the US and the UK.

Trump may not be able to ignore the presence of protesters entirely. Some plan to stage a "wall of sound" protest outside the barricades surrounding Winfield House on Thursday afternoon, with those attending urged to "bring pots, drums and vuvuzelas" for an all-night noise protest. Others will demonstrate outside Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May's residence.

Ahead of Trump's arrival, the US embassy advised US citizens in London to "keep a low profile" during Trump's visit. "Be aware of your surroundings (and) exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings that may become violent," it added.

Trump, who comes to Britain after an acrimonious NATO summit in Brussels, is on a "working visit" rather than a full state occasion.

However, he is still being accorded the honor of a Thursday night dinner with May at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of the UK's celebrated wartime leader Winston Churchill.

The event will begin with a military parade featuring the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards in the spectacular Great Court. The music will have an American flavor, with the "Liberty Fanfare" and the "National Emblem" chosen alongside "Amazing Grace."

On Friday, Trump will bypass the mass protests in London as he heads to May's country residence, Chequers, for bilateral talks, to be followed by tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle in the afternoon.

However, media coverage may well be dominated by footage of the "Trump baby" balloon as it soars above the iconic Houses of Parliament for a two-hour spell.

The request for the orange-hued blimp to fly was approved by London Mayor Sadiq Khan -- who has had a testy Twitter relationship with Trump -- after more than 10,000 people signed a petition. As of Thursday morning, more than 1,900 people had contributed to a crowdfunding campaign for the balloon, raising more than £30,000 (nearly $40,000).

Sarah Elliott, chairwoman of Republicans Overseas UK, told CNN she did not think Trump would be fazed by the stunt.

"I think whenever his detractors go after him, it makes him double down and it actually encourages him to keep going and prove everybody wrong," she said. "So I think that's the effect the balloon will have."

Blimp organizer Leo Murray said it had been designed to speak to Trump "in a language that he understands, which is personal insults."

But, he added: "Whether he sees it, whether he reacts to it, we don't really care. It's about lifting the spirits of the nation and it's already doing that, you know, it's just putting smiles on the faces of people who had started to despair about the state of politics."

Potentially tens of thousands are expected to march in a rally in Trafalgar Square on Friday afternoon, organized by the "Stop Trump" coalition.

Dozens of other, smaller protests against Trump's visit are set to take place around the UK throughout the day.

On Friday evening, the Trumps will travel to Scotland, where the President owns two golf properties, Trump Turnberry and Trump Aberdeen.

His next stop will be Helsinki, Finland, for a much-anticipated summit on July 16 with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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