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Donald Trump: The Visit

Controversial US president Donald Trump's upcoming visit to the UK will be subject to a massive security operation - following speculation it will spark the biggest protests since the anti-Iraq war demonstrations of 2003.

Donald Trump & Theresa May

He is due to arrive on UK shores in July, after Prime Minister Theresa May invited him for a state visit when she met him at the White House in January 2017. However, it has now been downgraded to a "working visit" - meaning the president will not be honoured with a carriage procession or an official banquet at Buckingham Palace.

 

Mass protests

Although the official line from Downing Street is that there isn't enough time to plan a state visit, it is believed the real reason is due to the security risks and the threat of mass protests when Mr Trump arrives on 13th July.

Detailed planning is now underway to assess the scale of the required security operation. Although it has been reported that the president is expected to meet the Queen, it isn't likely to be in London because of the security risks.

His earlier visit to open the new US Embassy was called off - allegedly because Mr Trump was angry that the previous US embassy in Mayfair had been sold for “peanuts” and a $1 billion replacement was built while President Barack Obama was in office - the deal had actually been agreed when George W Bush was still in the White House.

The president explained the reason for cancelling his trip (seen as a major diplomatic snub) on his Twitter account. However, his critics have claimed the real reason for postponing the visit was due to an outpouring of anger in the UK at his policies, including his stance on immigration, and the accusations he is warmongering.

 

No "red carpet"

He has openly clashed with London mayor Sadiq Khan, who has warned Mr Trump that the capital won't be “rolling out the red carpet” for him, saying instead that the president will experience a diverse city that chooses "unity over division."

Human rights groups have pledged to activate thousands of supporters to give President Trump the welcome they believe he deserves. Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty International, says supporters will definitely be making their voices heard when he arrives in the UK.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson has also revealed her party will protest against the president's visit. She claims they will be "standing in solidarity" with the people Trump has “abused and denigrated.”

A petition launched in 2016 calling for the withdrawal of the offer of a state visit received more than 1.8 million signatures. It claimed a state visit would "embarrass" the Queen. However, there is speculation she will now meet the president at Balmoral, although the main purpose of his visit is to hold talks with the Prime Minister.

 

Gun law

The president further fuelled a growing tide of opposition to his visit when he addressed a rally of America's National Rifle Association in Dallas on Friday 4th May.

As an outspoken supporter of American citizens' right to bear arms, Trump used a familiar argument to defend gun ownership, first asking sarcastically if the vehicles used by terrorists to kill people should be banned and then moving on to knives.

He spoke of London having "tough gun laws" but claimed a "once very prestigious hospital" had "blood all over the floors" as a result of "horrible stabbing wounds." Describing the unnamed hospital as being like a "military war zone hospital", Trump began to dramatically stab the air with an imaginary knife, while muttering, "Knives! Knives!"

Donald Trump

His comments provoked an angry backlash on Twitter, where business magnate Lord Alan Sugar tweeted, "He says in London one of our famous hospitals is like a war zone with knife incidents. LIE."

It isn't the first time the US president has openly criticised UK security, following his remarks last year about the handling of the London terrorist attacks. This sparked the row with the mayor of London.

 

Security

After Trump postponed his earlier visit to the UK, Jason Chaffetz, the former US representative for Utah, claimed he had previously briefed the president about the potential problems, should his visit go ahead. Chaffetz described it as a "mess" and a "huge waste of money", with "major security concerns."

Stepping up security for a presidential visit is always a challenge – and that’s without the added threat of protests! When President Obama visited New Delhi in 2015, an extra 50,000 security personnel were deployed, in addition to a team of secret service agents, 15,000 CCTV cameras, airborne radar, 40 police dogs and other security measures.

President Trump's visit to China in November 2017 saw members of the Communist party’s paramilitary guard, some with automatic weapons. Barriers also surrounded his hotel and extra CCTV was installed.

 

High-density CCTV

London has one of the highest densities of CCTV in the world, with an estimated 500,000 cameras in the capital in 2017. Research carried out by Urbaneye for a Europe-wide project on CCTV revealed that many of the cameras in the capital were operated by private businesses and individuals, in addition to those operated by councils and government bodies.

However, aside from the CCTV, the increase in police presence and other security measures would be likely to run into the millions of pounds. It was revealed that extra security cost more than £1.4 million for the state visit of Chinese premier Xi Jinping in 2015.

In comparison, Mr Trump's security is expected to rocket to several million pounds, although Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told reporters he was unable to put an exact figure on it.

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