To Donald Trump, any protest is a good protest. And any protest that clearly points out the huge popular resistance to his right-wing policies on foreign soil can actually be twisted into evidence that people really, really love him.
On Friday, when the president of the United States was meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II, 100,000 people packed London, with the clear aim of protesting Trump and preventing him from visiting most of the city.
Saturday, with Trump at his golf course in Scotland (where he also encountered protests), the streets of London filled again, but with a much smaller crowd — about 2,000 people. Some expressed support for Trump, but many more were there to call for the release of far-right, anti-Muslim figure currently in jail for contempt of court.
“Some of them are protesting in my favor, you know that?” Trump said in an interview with Piers Morgan on ITV, when asked about the protests. “There are many, many protests in my favor.”
As most estimates have made clear, the anti-Trump protests shutting down parts of London dwarfed the pro-Trump protests.
“Tommy Robinson supporters join pro-Donald Trump in rally a fraction of the size of Friday’s protest against the President,” read a headline from The Mirror, which estimated the difference at 100,000 to 2,000.
The AP described the “Welcome Donald Trump” rally as “small,” and said it only reached the still-modest size of 2,000 participants when it merged with a larger “free Tommy Robinson” protest nearby.
Another video showed far more police than protesters.
— Rose Troup Buchanan (@rose_catb) July 14, 2018
It’s possible that Trump was misled by completely inaccurate reports on social media, such as this one, which used a photo of protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square to argue that the Tommy Robinson rally was larger than the anti-Trump protests.
Nonsense. This was Tahrir Square in Egypt, during the revolutionary era. But bravo! You picked a revolution that was meant to empower a non-white population made up of Muslims & Christians, who fought together against tyranny. Now, if you could only support that in the UK. https://t.co/r7LMzWv3Qn
— Dr. H.A. Hellyer د.إتش 🖊📚 (@hahellyer) July 15, 2018
Trump has every right to note that there are some people in the U.K. who support him and cared enough to go outside with “Britain Loves Trump” signs. However, if he was claiming the people who took to the streets to fight for the goals and ideals of Tommy Robinson as his own supporters, then he also claims their ideology and behavior.
Tommy Robinson is the pseudonym for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a far-right leader of an anti-Muslim group called the English Defense League. He was jailed for contempt of court when he broadcast for an hour outside a criminal trial in May, making comments that risked the trial to collapse, and threatening defendants’ rights to a fair trial. He has organized violent protests against Muslims in the U.K. for the last decade.
The Trump administration ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, complained to the British ambassador last month about Robinson’s treatment, according to a Friday report from Reuters. Robinson’s supporters have also been in touch with the Trump administration.
While the anti-Tommy Robinson protesters also blocked a bus driven by a woman with a headscarf, pushing a “Britain Loves Trump” poster onto the windshield.
“The bus driver appeared unperturbed throughout,” The Independent reported. “When politely asking the demonstrators to move failed, she remained sat at the wheel rolling her eyes.”
Twelve people were arrested during Saturday’s protests. Nine were taken into custody at a similar rally in June, which also caused serious violence across London. Meanwhile, a union leader who addressed a counter-protest “Stand Up to Racism” was attacked Saturday by a group of “thugs” at a pub afterward. “If you oppose Tommy you get attacked by a glass and a chair,” he said, according to the Guardian. “We have to stop this.”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) reportedly spoke at the rally. ThinkProgress reached out to his congressional office for comment, but did not receive a reply to the request by the time this story was published.