LONDON – The mayor of London defended his decision to allow protesters to fly a giant “Trump baby” blimp over the city during President Donald Trump’s visit, saying disagreement was part of a fundamental freedom.
Sadiq Khan gave permission for the balloon, which was inflated with helium early Friday and will float over the Houses of Parliament during the demonstrations.
“The idea that we would park our rights and privileges and freedoms because it may cause offence to a U.S. president, I think people in London and the U.K. would find objectionable as indeed would Americans,” the mayor said. “We should cherish the fact they’ve got the right to [protest].”
Trump, who was due to meet Queen Elizabeth II later Friday, has feuded with Khan, who is Muslim, over crime and immigration.
‘The wonderful thing about our city is the diversity. I hope you’ll realise it’s a strength not to be afraid of, but to be cherished.’ @SadiqKhan responds to Donald Trump comments this morning. pic.twitter.com/R8HM0TexKU
– Good Morning Britain (@GMB) July 13, 2018
“Of course we stand shoulder to shoulder in adversity, and it was really comforting when Americans sent messages of support when we had terrorist attack last year,” Khan said, “but when we think you’re wrong we should say you’re wrong – that’s what a special relationship is all about.”
Sadiq Khan on why he allowed the Trump baby blimp: “Can you imagine if we limited freedom of speech because somebody’s feelings might be hurt?” #r4today
– Emily Ashton (@elashton) July 13, 2018
Trump arrived in Britain Thursday, and was expected to be in London before later moving to his golf resort in Scotland.
Hours after his arrival, he condemned Prime Minister Theresa May in an explosive interview in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun tabloid, in which he slammed her policy on Brexit. But on Friday morning, the president praised May.
He also took aim again at Khan, saying: “I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad. I look at cities in Europe, and I can be specific if you’d like. You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job.”
Opposition lawmaker Emily Thornberry hit out at Trump’s comments, telling LBC radio: “It’s Islamophobia and it is racist. I’m afraid it is absolutely in Donald Trump’s playbook. It just shows what a terrible president he is.”
Khan, who has no powers over immigration, also questioned the motives behind Trump’s repeated criticism.
“Manchester also suffered a terror attack … Paris Nice, Brussels, Berlin, cities in American have all suffered terror attacks so it’s for President Trump to explain why he singled me as the mayor of London out,” he said. “It is for him to explain why he thinks I’m responsible for immigration into Europe or the U.K. I have no power over these things.”
The latest chapter in the Trump-Khan feud came after a British lawmaker was accused of Islamophobia over a now-deleted tweet he posted about the London mayor.
Michael Fabricant posted a cartoon Khan’s head on an inflatable balloon, engaged in a sex act with a pig. Fabricant apologised, saying he “stupidly tweeted it in a meeting without checking it properly.”