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Of the numerous creative ways in which people have shown their disapproval of the 45th president of the United States, few have come close to causing a stir quite like the so-called “Trump Baby” blimp due to fly over London on Friday.
In the weeks since the six-meter (roughly 20 feet) tall inflatable, depicting Donald Trump as an angry, orange, diaper-wearing baby, entered the public arena, it has faced the wrath of Rudy Giuliani, come under attack from Fox News, sparked a rival imitation, had a world tour planned and become the headline act of the numerous protests erupting across the U.K. to mark the president’s first official visit.
On Tuesday, when the Trump Baby had its first test inflation, ABC News covered the event live.
“It was the most bizarre thing,” says Matthew Butcher, one of the organizers of the blimp, adding that the press interest has been “somewhat surprising and overwhelming and amazing in equal measure.”
Originally launched as an online crowdfunding campaign to fund the manufacture of a giant balloon that would enable Trump, who Butcher calls “a big, angry baby with a fragile ego and tiny hands,” to know that “all of Britain is looking down on him and laughing at him” when he visits London, the project’s initial £10,000 ($13,200) target was smashed in less than a week.
Once enough money was in the bank, the next step was getting the necessary permission to fly over London, something that mayor Sadiq Khan — a man who Trump has personally attacked via Twitter — granted after a petition was signed by more than 10,000 people.
Then came the attacks.
Noted Trump supporter Nigel Farage, one of the lead voices in favor of Brexit, tweeted that Khan’s decision was the “biggest insult to a sitting U.S. President ever” (many were quick to point out that several sitting U.S. presidents had been shot, something that possibly represented a greater insult).
Giuliani also chimed in, speaking from “one mayor to another” and saying that Khan “should be ashamed of himself.”
“He’s so busy attacking President Trump’s visit and, in the meantime, crime is spiraling in London. Maybe he should just do his job instead of attacking a world leader,” Giuliani added.
“I find it really spectacular when people who claim to be the champions of free speech really hate free speech,” Butcher says. “We’re exercising a right, which is to make our political point of view and make it loud and clear.”
Regarding issues of disrespect, Butcher says that it’s “pretty strange” that the act of inflating a balloon is described as disrespectful compared to Trump’s own actions.
“There’s everything from locking up children to tearing up global climate change agreements that have taken years to make … he’s disrespectful almost on a daily basis to everyone he encounters, it seems,” he argues.
Not everyone in the U.K. supports the Trump Baby, of course. One detractor has gone so far as to mimic the idea, launching a crowdfunding campaign aimed at getting a giant Sadiq Khan baby balloon flying over London simultaneously. But with just one day to go, news of this rival blimp’s arrival — despite raising more than £50,000 ($66,000) according to the Crowdfunder website — has quietened down. (THR has reached out for comment).
“I think the chances of it flying are extremely small,” Butcher claims.
With the controversial blessing of the London mayor’s office, the Trump Baby now has a strict time slot between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Friday; two hours during which it can soar 100 feet above Parliament Square while tethered to the ground.
The timing means that the blimp won’t be a part of the huge anti-Trump demonstration, expected to attract some 10,000 people, that starts in central London at 2 p.m. For this, however, a 10-foot tall, non-helium inflated mini version has been made.
The Trump Baby is also unlikely to be seen by its intended target, with the president’s actual time spent in London kept to an absolute minimum and designed to avoid as much of the protests as possible. But he certainly knows that it exists, telling The Sun newspaper on the eve of his visit that it made him feel “unwelcome.”
He might, however, spot the blimp elsewhere.
With money still pouring into the campaign (mainly via “lots and lots of very small donations,” according to Butcher), the total amassed has passed £30,000 ($40,000), with organizers stating they intend to use the excess on a “Trump Baby World Tour” that will see it deflated and re-inflated wherever the president travels in order to “troll Donald from the skies.”
“This only came about because we had people all over the world basically requesting, ‘Please, please can we have him,” says Butcher, who admits there’s still plenty of working out to do regarding logistics and support.
But Butcher’s hope is that the blimp’s next outing is Scotland, where Trump is due to head after taking tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle on Thursday.
Despite a petition, Scottish police have refused requests to allow the Trump Baby to fly over Turnberry, the president’s own golf course (where he was greeted with a mariachi band two years ago). However, authorities have said they are looking into “possible alternatives” for the balloon.
“Of course, it’s fairly silly having a huge inflatable baby Donald Trump, but there’s a kind of seriousness behind it,” Butcher says. “It’s peaceful and playful, but it’s really accessible. People see it, they get it.”
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