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'Sexist, racist, extremist': Brits slam Trump ahead of U.K. state visit

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Image: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and President Donald Trump inspect the
The Queen and Trump inspect the guard of honor formed of the Coldstream Guards at Windsor Castle on July 13, 2018. -
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Ben Stansall
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LONDON — When President Donald Trump visited the United Kingdom last summer, he was greeted by mass protests.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in demonstrations across the country, many carrying anti-Trump signs daubed with typically dry and lewd British humor. The pièce de résistance was a giant inflatable "Trump baby" — a 20-foot blimp showing a bawling commander-in-chief wearing a diaper.

And that was meant to be a relatively low-key "working trip" for the president. So what will happen this summer when Trump returns for a full state visit?

On Tuesday, Buckingham Palace announced that the president will travel again to British shores in June, but this time on the official invitation of Queen Elizabeth II — with all the trappings and ceremony that a state visit entails.

So, If anything, the protests this time will be even more fierce.

Senior figures in the opposition Labour Party are campaigning to have the state visit canceled altogether, a position previously adopted by Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, and John Bercow, the speaker of the House and Commons.

Giving a flavor of the feeling against the president, one of these lawmakers, David Lammy, described Trump in a tweet as "deluded, dishonest, xenophobic" and "narcissistic." Another, Stephen Doughty, labeled him "racist, sexist" and "extremist."

Emily Thornberry, one of Labour's most senior lawmakers and would-be foreign secretary under a Labour government, said Trump had "systematically assaulted all the shared values that unite our two countries." She said Prime Minister Theresa May had "no business wasting taxpayers' money on all the pomp, ceremony and policing costs that will come with this visit."

This could all add up to a somewhat frosty reception from what is supposed to be the U.S.' closest ally.

Khan has been one of the most senior opponents of Trump in the U.K. and in January 2018 said he represented "the polar opposite of our city's values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance."

Trump himself then responded to this, calling him "pathetic" and saying he did a "terrible job" at dealing with the London Bridge terror attack in June 2017. Some of Khan's supporters believe that Trump focused on him because he is a Muslim.

While Khan may these days be using more diplomatic language, he has yet to retract any of his criticisms. A spokesperson for the mayor told NBC News in an email Wednesday that while "Sadiq's views about Donald Trump are well known ... he of course understands the importance of the president visiting to commemorate D-Day."

Arriving June 3, the president and first Lady Melania Trump will likely be greeted by a lavish ceremony and a banquet with the Queen and 150 distinguished guests. Then on June 5 they will attend a ceremony in the southern coastal city of Portsmouth to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Last time around, Trump did briefly have tea with the Queen, but that was at Windsor Castle some 20 miles outside London city center. His trip seemed specifically designed so he could zip around in his helicopter and entirely avoid the demonstrations raging in the heart of the city.

By its very nature, this year's state visit means the president cannot avoid this bear pit.

He will arrive in a country embittered and riven over Brexit, and with Prime Minister May in almost a perpetual state of crisis.

As across most of Europe, the president is unpopular in Britain. Less than a third of Brits have any confidence in him at all, according to a study by the Pew Research Center last year.

Sure enough, less than 24 hours after the visit was announced this week, a Facebook event calling for a second protest on June 4 already had some 4,500 people signed up. The same activists who won permission to float a Trump baby blimp in Parliament Square confirmed that it will fly again.

Police said Trump's trip last year cost around £18 million (around $23 million) with some 10,000 extra officers drafted from across the country to help cover the event.

A debate rages in the U.K. over whether the president should get to speak in Parliament, an honor offered to several other leaders during state visits. John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, has made clear he is no fan of Trump.

It "is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor," he told told lawmakers in 2017, when discussing Trump's visit of last year. "I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism, and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations."

This time around, some are urging Bercow to drop this stance. They point to other world leaders with arguably more controversial records who have addressed Parliament, namely Chinese President Xi Jinping, a ruler whose state is accused of flagrant human rights abuses.

In carefully chosen language that shows no sign of a thawing on Bercow's stance, a spokesperson for the speaker's office told NBC News in an email Wednesday that any such request to speak would be "considered in the usual way."

Lord Fowler, speaker of the House of Lords, also has a say in the matter. He said there was a "strong case" in allowing Trump to speak.

The Queen and Trump inspect the guard of honor formed of the Coldstream Guards at Windsor Castle on July 13, 2018.
The Queen and Trump inspect the guard of honor formed of the Coldstream Guards at Windsor Castle on July 13, 2018.Ben Stansall

Then there are those who vehemently disagree with the president but believe his visit should be ignored rather than vocally opposed. This strand has coalesced around the hashtag #TumbleweedTrump.

"The thing this guy hates most is to be ignored," said the author and playwright Bonnie Greer, who was born in Chicago but now lives in London. "He can take hate, what he can't take is people not looking at him."

She told BBC radio on Tuesday night, "Just don't show up — let the streets be empty."