Trump and London mayor lock horns as huge protest march begins

#Diplomacy

Sadiq Khan says claims by US president that increased immigration is causing crime and leading to deadly attacks are 'preposterous'

Protesters banged on pots and pans, others blew trumpets and held up orange "Stop Trump" balloons (AFP)
Ali Harb's picture
Last update: 
Friday 13 July 2018 14:17 UTC
Topics: 

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has responded to what he called "preposterous" claims by US President Donald Trump that increased immigration was behind crime and deadly attacks across Europe and that the Labour politician had done a "very bad job on terrorism".

In an interview with UK newspaper the Sun, Trump, who is on an official visit to the UK, slammed Europe's immigration policies as a segue into his attack on Khan, London's first Muslim mayor.

"I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad," Trump told the Sun.

Trump claimed immigrants were behind crime and deadly attacks across Europe and, although municipalities do not control immigration policy, the US president pointed the finger at Khan.

'What he's actually talking about is Muslims coming to Europe and a Muslim mayor. This president launched his political career with Islamophobia'

- Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR

"You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job," Trump was quoted as saying.

"Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism."

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme on Friday morning, Khan said such deadly attacks were a global problem, with people dying across Europe. "What is interesting is Trump is not criticising mayors of those cities but he is criticising me," he said.

The mayor said Trump's remarks blaming immigration for crime in England were "preposterous".

“There has been an increase in violent crime across England and Wales... it's gone up by more than 20 per cent... and by four per cent in London... We must deal with the causes but also enforcement and where we have lost £7m in our budget in London I have invested £4m... [but] the idea to blame immigration from Africa is preposterous and we should call him out when does," Khan said.

The Sun interview was published shortly after Trump met with British Prime Minister Theresa May at Blenheim Palace near Oxford on Thursday.

Protests

Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in London on Friday against Trump's visit. Some demonstrators banged on pots and pans, others blew on trumpets and many held up orange "Stop Trump" balloons.

One woman wore a pink knitted "pussy hat" at the start of the "Women's March", which will be followed later in the day by the main "Together Against Trump" coalition.

"Donald Trump is misogynistic, chauvinistic, homophobic, xenophobic, promotes bigotry... and has tiny little hands!" said one of the participants, 42-year-old Georgina Rose.

Earlier on Friday, Trump held talks with May at Chequers, the UK prime minister's country residence in Buckinghamshire.

Following thay meeting, the president and his wife are due to travel to Windsor Castle to meet the Queen, before flying to Scotland to spend the weekend at Trump's Turnberry golf course.

Campaigners elsewhere in London flew a "Baby Trump" balloon, an act of protest approved by Khan which has proved particularly contentious for Trump and his supporters.

"As an American, I think it's great. It's a peaceful way of protesting and there are a lot of people who agree with it," said Brett Kirchner, 25, from the US state of North Carolina.

"Back home in the States, there will be some who are very upset about this protest and who think it's insulting. I have been asked to send photos back though. Not everyone likes Trump," he said.

'Vile, Islamophobic image'

Khan's decision to approve the giant balloon depicting Trump as a baby in a nappy to fly above Parliament appeared to have angered Trump.

Defending the decision, Khan said: "The UK, like the USA, has a long and rich history of rights and the freedom to protest and freedom of speech. The US ambassador himself commented that one thing USA and the UK have in common is freedom of speech and the idea of restricting that and right to assemble because someone is offended by something is slippery slope.

"When determining these things [it should be about]... whether it is safe and peaceful. As a politician I should not be the arbiter of what is good or bad taste."

Referencing the balloon, Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, sparked outrage on Thursday after tweeting a cartoon of Khan as an inflatable pig, involved in a sexual act with another pig.

Fabricant, who later deleted the tweet, said: "I did not see the detail on my phone. I stupidly tweeted it without checking it properly and hadn't spotted there was a face on it."

Calling for Fabricant's suspension, Azfal Khan MP, Labour's shadow immigration minister, said in a statement: "The Tories have ignored countless calls for an inquiry into Islamophobia in their party from their own members, the former chair of their party and the Muslim Council of Britain.

"Clearly there's a problem, and if Brandon Lewis's respect pledge meant anything, Michael Fabricant would be suspended immediately."

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, tweeted: "Can't believe @Mike_Fabricant tweeted that vile, islamophobic image of @SadiqKhan - thought it was a spoof. He has just deleted it."

War of words

Trump's verbal assaults against Khan are not new.

Hours after an attack inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group killed several people in London last year, Trump used the occasion to criticise Khan.

"At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'" the US president wrote on Twitter.

Trump had taken the mayor's words out of context. Khan had urged residents to be vigilant, saying they should not be worried about increased police presence.

Still, the skirmish goes back to when Trump was still a candidate for the presidency. After the property mogul proposed banning Muslims from entering the US, Khan called him "ignorant", prompting Trump to challenge the mayor to an IQ test.

Trump is notorious for bragging about his own intelligence. Earlier on Thursday, he once again branded himself a "stable genius" at the end of a NATO summit in Brussels.

'Anti-immigrant hysteria'

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), slammed Trump's comments as "anti-immigrant hysteria".

"What he's actually talking about is Muslims coming to Europe and a Muslim mayor," Hooper told MEE. "This president launched his political career with Islamophobia."

Hooper added that Trump's statement against Khan was a continuation of the same bigotry against Muslims that he promotes in the US. "He's taking his same act on the road in Europe."

In the Sun interview, Trump also criticised May for her approach to the UK's exit from the European Union.

Boris Johnson resigned earlier this week as foreign secretary in protest against May, whose plan aims to preserve close trade ties with the European bloc.

Trump said the PM's scheme could affect a bilateral trade deal with the US.

"If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal," he told the tabloid.

However, he appeared to backtrack on those comments in a news conference with May held after their meeting at Chequers.

"I believe after speaking with the prime minister's people and trade experts a deal will be possible," he said.

In The Sun interview, Trump also lavished praise on Johnson, calling him a "very talented guy" who "would be a great prime minister".