On 5 July 2018, the UK’s Metro newspaper published a piece by British activist Leo Murray explaining why he and others had created a “six-metre-high, orange, inflatable baby with tiny hands and a malevolent, constipated expression on his face” which they intended to fly over Parliament during U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK on 13 July.
That piece read, in part, as follows:
[I]t’s on everyone who knows the difference between right and wrong to resist this grotesque excuse for a president when he comes here. He needs to be run out of town, figuratively at least. But how? This is a man who lacks the capacity for moral shame. Liberal outrage just makes him smirk harder.
To really get through to Trump, you have to get down on his level and talk to him in a language he understands: personal insults.
Ridiculing tyrants and despots is a proud British tradition, so we can think of this as the whistling ‘Hitler has only got one ball’ of our times. If this generation is going to have to fight fascism again, we may as well have a bit of a laugh while we are doing it.
This point is key. The day Donald Trump won the US presidential election, I found myself gripped by a profound sense of dread. It was a feeling that I had not experienced since I first got to grips with the looming threat of catastrophic climate change, the issue I now work on every day.
But my rising panic over Trump’s election wasn’t about climate change exactly. It was about a crushing sense of my own powerlessness to prevent terrible, unconscionable things happening to vulnerable people on an enormous scale. For me, in the face of a humanitarian disaster like climate change or Donald Trump, it really is a case of having to laugh, or cry. So I choose laughter.
A crowdfunding effort to support Murray’s plans has so far raised £26,700 (about USD $35,000), and a petition to London mayor Sadiq Khan to “Let Trump Baby Fly” was discontinued after garnering over 10,000 signatures and achieving its intended purpose.
Initially, Murray’s group reported that Mayor Khan had not granted them permission to fly the balloon at London’s Parliament Square because the “Trump Baby” did not qualify as a protest:
I am a giant orange baby with tiny hands. I just want to fly above Parliament on July 13th when little Donald visit Britain. But @MayorofLondon says I can’t. Sad!
— Trump Baby (@TrumpBabyUK) June 13, 2018
However, Murray shut down the entreating petition effort after reporting that city officials had changed their decision and allowed that the balloon protest could proceed as planned:
To begin with, officials in the London Mayor’s office were not super pumped about our application to fly an unflattering effigy of the US president over Parliament on 13th July, telling us that Trump Baby was “art” and inflatables did not qualify as legitimate protest.
But there was nothing in the rules about not flying inflatables, and all our paperwork was in order. We began to wonder if this might not be an important test of the health and vitality of our democracy.
So we started a petition to the Mayor to let Trump Baby fly …
City Hall has granted us consent for Trump Baby to make a majestic two hour flight over the seat of Britain’s democracy, between 9.30 and 11.30am on Friday the 13th July. His flight will be a beacon of light in a dark time, a historic national gesture of defiance against the rise of Trump’s barbarous and hateful politics, and a welcome reminder that parts at least of Britain’s democracy are still working how they are supposed to.
According to city spokesperson quoted by NPR, however, the protest organizers “will also need to receive the necessary approvals from the Metropolitan Police and national air traffic service in order for [the balloon] to fly,” and it was uncertain at press time whether those approvals had been secured.
Details of President Trump’s schedule for his brief visit have been sketchy and subject to revision in news reports, but the U.S. chief executive and First Lady Melania Trump are expected to attend a black tie dinner at Blehnheim Palace, then after meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers (the prime minister’s country retreat) for a working lunch, President Trump will travel to Windsor Castle with the first lady to meet Queen Elizabeth.
Even if the “Trump baby” balloon should fly as planned, however, it’s doubtful that President Trump himself will be in a position to see it, as The Guardian observed:
Donald Trump will almost entirely avoid London during his four-day visit to the UK next week, Downing Street has said, unveiling an itinerary that is likely to prompt accusations he is trying to avoid planned protests against him.
Trump, who is to meet Theresa May and the Queen among others before spending two days in Scotland, will only spend the night in London on Thursday, the day of his arrival, staying at the US ambassador’s official residence in Regent’s Park, Winfield House.
Before that he will attend a gala dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, and the following day he will hold talks with the prime minister at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Both are places where protesters can be kept out of sight and earshot.
Later on the Friday he will meet the Queen at Windsor Castle before heading to Scotland for the weekend
The US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, rejected the suggestion Trump was trying to keep away from any dissent.
“No, the president is not avoiding anything,” he told a press briefing. “The president is merely trying to get as impactful a trip as he can get in a 24-hour period.” Trump will be using London as a base during his visit, Johnson said.
Asked whether Trump had heard of the baby balloon, Johnson said: “Yes, I think we’re all aware of these things.” While the president was focused on his objectives, he “appreciates free speech, both in this country and in our country”, Johnson added.
Murray, Leo. “We’re Protesting Trump’s Visit by Flying an Inflatable Trump Baby over London.”
Metro. 5 July 2018.
Puente, Maria. “President Trump, Melania to Meet Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle During UK Visit.”
USA Today. 6 July 2018.
Bratek, Rebecca. “Activists Want to Fly Giant “Trump Baby” Balloon Over London to Protest His UK Visit.”
CBS News. 28 June 2018.
Walker, Peter. “Donald Trump to Almost Entirely Avoid London During UK Visit.”
The Guardian. 6 July 2018.
Penman, Maggie. “London Mayor Says ‘Trump Baby’ Blimp Can Fly in Protest of President Trump’s Visit.”
NPR. 5 July 2018.