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World

British Petitioners Seek To Keep Trump From Making An Official State Visit

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Protests over the president's temporary travel ban have spread worldwide, including last night in London where thousands gathered outside the residence of the prime minister. They criticized President Trump and also what they see as Prime Minister Theresa May's weak response. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Shame on May. Shame on May.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: So I'm here in front of 10 Downing St., and as you can hear people are yelling shame on May. They're angry with the prime minister for not saying more about Donald Trump's policies. And it's thousands and thousands of people blocking the road down here, I can barely move.

Near the front of the crowd stood Zee Bokhari, who's 18. She's a citizen of both the United Kingdom and Iraq, one of the countries affected by the ban. Bokhari thinks May should have been tougher on Trump.

ZEE BOKHARI: She's got to realize that she has citizens here that are of dual nationality like myself, therefore when she doesn't condemn the acts of people such as Trump, she's just as bad as the oppressor.

LANGFITT: The U.K. government says dual nationals such as Bokhari won't be affected by the ban as long as they aren't flying from one of the listed countries. Even so, Bokhari, who plans to attend law school in New York, wonders if she'll be able to get into the U.S.

BOKHARI: I can't lie, I'm worried. I don't think this situation will resolve, I think it will just get progressively worse.

LANGFITT: More than a million and a half people have signed a petition demanding the government cancel Trump's invitation for a state visit and meeting with the queen, but May won't budge. Here she is speaking at a news conference yesterday during a visit to Ireland.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: The United States is a close ally of the United Kingdom, we work together across many areas of mutual interest. I have issued that invitation, the - informally issued that invitation for a state visit, and that invitation stands.

LANGFITT: The last few days have been dizzying ones for May. On Friday she met Trump at the White House and seemed to get the support she wanted on NATO and a free trade deal the U.K. desperately needs as it prepares to pull out of the European Union. Trump sounded friendly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I can often tell how I get along with somebody very early, and I believe we're going to have a fantastic relationship.

LANGFITT: But the travel ban, which was signed the same day, seemed to catch May off guard. After some delay, she offered a statement saying she didn't support the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Booing).

LANGFITT: When May arrived in Wales yesterday, she was met by booing crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Booing).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Inaudible) with fascists.

LANGFITT: Political opponents called her Theresa the appeaser. Emily Thornberry of the opposition Labor Party noted that May briefly held hands with the president, and told the House of Commons yesterday the prime minister should have stood up to Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EMILY THORNBERRY: President Trump is already descending down a very dangerous slope.

UNIDENTIFIED PARLIAMENTARIANS: Yeah.

THORNBERRY: And when that happens, we need a prime minister who is prepared to tell him to stop, not one who simply proffers her hand and silently helps him along.

LANGFITT: Tony Travers says when foreign leaders ally with Trump, his policies can sting them back home. Travers is a professor of government at the London School of Economics.

TONY TRAVERS: For the time being I think it's going to be very difficult for politicians in countries like Britain, but not only Britain, to deal with the domestic consequences of some of the things that Donald Trump says and does.

LANGFITT: But Travers says it'll be hard for leaders in Europe to disengage from the new president, and after all, he now oversees the world's biggest economy and its most powerful country. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.