Politics: Preparing for the President
The President of the Unites States, Donald Trump is now in the United Kingdom on his state visit. Kevan James takes a quick look at the streets of central London as the final preparations are made.
President Trump has been something of a divisive figure both in the USA and the UK since his election. Nevertheless, as President of the UK's closest ally, the division of opinion is quite marked. On the right, many people, while not entirely approving of his mannerisms, still accept that as United States President, he is to be accorded the respect his office demands. On the other side of the spectrum however, those of a left wing persuasion have handed out a number of insulting remarks.
Not surprisingly, the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police and the UK's security services have mounted an almost unprecedented operation to ensure the safety of not just President Trump but everybody else as well.
Also not a surprise is that the eyes of the world are keenly trained on London this week, with the BBC (left) having crews on the streets ready to capture every moment.
Not just the BBC of course but also journalists and camera crews from everywhere else are stationed in the UK capital to report on everything and anything that happens. Naturally, our nearest neighbours France, have reporters doing their duty (Below left), along with numerous colleagues from other news outlets around the world.
Most of the time, London always has something going on that makes a newsworthy story, from what's on in the heart of Theatreland, to a big screen premiere and, usually in May, the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, not to mention the England team's games. Add Cricket at the Oval and Rugby at Twickenham, plus London's other attractions and its no surprise that the city is thronged with people all day every day.
Which can make keeping everybody's ability to come and go as they please something of a challenge, even in the best of times.
The current era is not one of them however; with the Brexit impasse still stuck fast and a new Conservative party Leader to be elected, and thus becoming Prime Minister, plus the ongoing threat of terrorism, London is indeed a challenging place in terms of security at the moment.
Adding to that of course, is the state visit of President Trump.
Matters are not helped by reports this week that Security Minister Ben Wallace (under whose remit falls MI5) has demanded that Chancellor Phillip Hammond find more cash to help keep the UK abreast of terrorism and other criminal threats.
In an interview with the Mail On Sunday newspaper, Mr Wallace said: 'We're under assault from all types of enemy - sophisticated cyber criminals, organised crime bosses, terrorists and hostile states - relentlessly picking away at us, targeting us and using all the facilities the 21st Century has to offer to attack our values and our people.'
Mr Wallace, who today (Monday June 3, 2019) becomes the UK's longest-serving security minister, also revealed that nearly 600 investigations by the security services are currently 'live' and suggested that the 'activities of hostile states such as we saw last year in Salisbury are not one-offs'.
Meanwhile, President Trump will be surrounded by a ring of steel this week while on his state visit. Up to 10,000 police officers, many brought in from provincial forces, will be on duty on the streets of London to handle the mass protests that will be accompanying President Trump's time in the UK.
Left: At one time, people could wander in to Downing Street as they pleased. It was indeed a 'must-do' to have a photograph of one's self taken standing in front of Number 10.
Those days are long gone and Downing Street today is as secure a place as any - the only people who get past the steel barriers is the Prime Minister, other government and civil service members plus duly accredited members of the press who assemble opposite Number 10 and numbers are restricted; there isn't room for too many.
Below - Police presence in London this week is immense.
Anti-Trump demonstrators will be out in force and one thing for which both the British people, visitors to the capital and for that matter, President Trump and his entourage, along with those who genuinely wish to make their voices heard, is that the British Police and security services generally, are among the best there is when it comes to keeping everybody safe.
It is those who ride on the back off the right to demonstrate that make life awkward. Protesters are to be allowed, according to current information, in to Whitehall and within shouting distance of Downing Street when President Trump has lunch with outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May at Number 10 on Tuesday. The rest of Whitehall however, leading to Parliament Square, will be closed off.
A coalition of left-wing groups, including Extinction Rebellion and a group calling themselves Milkshakes Against Racism, some of whom have a history of being arrested at previous demonstrations, are reporting to have mobilised a large number of activists to take part in what has been called a 'Carnival of Resistance' as close as they can get to Downing Street.
Left - not only visibly armed Police officers are on every corner but more traditional methods are also being used.
Protesters have threatened to bring London to a standstill as they follow President Trump around during his stay and cause the maximum disruption possible. Whether they succeed or not will depend of the eyes and ears of the police and security services.
As of Monday June 3 however, London was as it always is, full of tourists, other visitors and, around the Houses of Parliament, government officials going about their business. Put another way, London was open as usual.
This included an American couple who made the point that they hoped that the people of the UK would not assume that their President and his opinions and actions represented every American. It also included a lovely lady called Irma who had turned up to exercise her democratic right to demonstrate but got the day wrong.
She will be back tomorrow.
Meanwhile, down the road from Parliament Square, diagonally opposite the Palace of Westminster, College Green lay free (for the moment) of what has been for some considerable time the news-feeding frenzy it had become noted for. That will no doubt change again once the Brexit debates begin again but for now, only an Arabic news team had their equipment in place.
© Kevan James 2019
All Images © Kevan James 2019.