US President Donald Trump has arrived in the UK, kicking off a controversial three-day visit that is likely to see tens of thousands take to the streets to march in opposition to his policies.
But while planned protests – including the launch of an inflatable blimp depicting the President as an orange, snarling baby over Parliament – have prompted one of the biggest police operations in the UK since the 2011 riots – some people are awaiting the arrival of Trump with open arms.
One such person is landlord Damien Smyth, whose Hammersmith pub The Jameson has rebranded as The Trump Arms in celebration of his visit.
The 52-year-old says he was inspired to support the President after hearing about the “disgusting” balloon stunt, which was approved by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has engaged in a long-running war of words with the American leader over issues including crime and terrorism.
Smyth said: “It’s so silly, so childish. An insult to the people of America. It won’t matter to Trump, he’s got thick skin and it’s water off a duck’s back. If the Queen or Theresa May was mocked in the same manner in Washington or New York, the people of this country would be horrified. It’s just manners.”
The Jameson will be hosting a three-day party from Thursday to Saturday and Smyth is expecting a full house, but he admits he’s also been on the receiving end of abuse.
He explained: “The phone is red hot. I have had dozens and dozens of calls from people calling me a racist and a fascist. Horrific stuff. You just have to grin and bear it. These people have their views, perhaps they’d be better off protesting, perhaps they have nothing better to do.”
The pub has been bedecked in bunting and American flags, along with a message over the door: “Welcome our American friends.”
He added: “In my book, the man is trying to better the world at massive sacrifice to himself and his family. He doesn’t need to be doing this. He could be playing golf. He could be relaxing around the world instead of this baloney.
“The sacrifice he and his family have made is extraordinary. To give your life to your country, to try and give something back. He’s a progressive operator and a clever businessman.
“He’s not perfect, there’s no question about that. I’m not perfect myself and if there is a guy who is 100% perfect, bring him in and we’ll have a look at him. The man is doing an incredible job and he has made the world safe again.”
Trump supporter Drew Liquerman sees Smyth’s pub party having a lasting legacy.
The 21-year-old American St Andrews student said: “It’s so funny. I’m curious as to how it’s going to affect business. I bet they have a vocal following and that it will become some cult place where if you’re right wing and you visit London, you have to have a pint there.”
Liquerman, who is the spokesman for Republicans Overseas, is not surprised protesters are gearing up: “I understand that Trump isn’t the most popular person in London, it’s the same way he’s not the most popular person in New York or San Francisco. He’s just never going to be popular in liberal, metropolitan hubs.”
But he sees the balloon stunt as “a combination of funny and pathetic” and points out no such bizarre protests have been planned over the visits of world leaders with demonstrably poor human rights records.
Referring to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s three-day visit to the capital in May, after hundreds of journalists were jailed after being associated with terrorism during a failed coup attempt, Liquerman said: “I’m not saying there’s no protests but they run through much with no problem at all. It’s a strict regime he’s running, he’s bringing Turkey back a thousand years. There was no talk about flying a balloon for him.
“I don’t think it will bother Trump, I think he’ll wind up making a joke out of it. And I don’t think the protesters are servicing themselves well with this balloon tactically speaking.
“First of all they are delegitimising their protest. People are going to think of their protest as just a bunch of people flying a silly balloon, whereas instead there may have been interest, like ‘Wow, look at all these people in the streets.’ Now they’re just going to be far lefties flying a balloon. They’re not actually here for political discussion.”
Downing Street has said the visit will “celebrate the strong business links between our two countries” at a time when the UK is hoping to strike a free trade deal with the US following Brexit. There will also be a focus on integrated UK-US military training.
Liquerman added: “If we have a good deal this could hypothetically be £500 or £1,000 more in the average family’s pocket in the UK. It could be a bigger tourism industry in the UK. That’s what they’re protesting against.
“And this is a man who is defending your country. The UK is leaving the EU and I imagine a lot of these protesters are Europhiles. Do they want to sabotage the relationship with the US? What’s left for their government? Do they want them to work with Iran? Turkey? Qatar? Russia? China?”
Liquerman said he hoped the visit would “get the special relationship back on track”.
He added: “It’s not just Trump. If Hillary Clinton were president, I would not be protesting. I would be very happy that she was coming, because I value the special relationship between our countries and I recognise it’s the President of the United States meeting leadership in the UK which is great and something I’ll always celebrate.”
One Republican who won’t be drinking in the Trump Arms this weekend, however, is Hope Howard.
The 22-year-old Oklahoma native spent six months in the UK and says she was ashamed to be associated with the President, who has formerly starred on reality show The Apprentice.
She said: “A lot of people in the UK see Trump as the Republican party and I am a millennial who would love to see this party moving forward and not be associated with the type of man Trump is.
“I’m pro-gay marriage, have very liberal social beliefs but I’m fiscally conservative. That’s my stance. I believe in women’s rights and to be associated with that kind of extreme conservatism isn’t what I stand for at all.
“Personally I think it’s embarrassing. He’s not what we had in mind for President. A lot of people don’t know or don’t see that there are a group of Republicans that are not evil people.
“We want equality. We want our voices to be heard and we stand for people’s rights. I’m always dumbfounded by the person who is representing our country.”
Howard says she was heartened by how much anger and frustration towards Trump is felt in the UK, and of the balloon stunt, she said: “Go for it. I think the worst thing he can do is tweet about it. We stand for freedom of speech so why not. I think it’s amusing.”
The balloon will be flown from 9.30am on Friday morning, alongside a series of protests taking place across the capital.