Far fewer than expected turn out to bikini blimp protest to 'humiliate Sadiq Khan in his hometown'
A small gathering of protesters branded the London mayor a 'disgrace' and blamed crime in the capital on immigration from 'the third world'
Numbers for a protest against Sadiq Khan's tenure as Mayor of London were far smaller than predicted, as a 29-feet long blimp depicting the Labour politician was launched into the sky above Westminster.
The activist responsible for the protest - which thousands had expressed interest in attending on Facebook - said the aim was to "humiliate Sadiq Khan in his hometown," but the reality was only around 300 people expressing anger at Khan's time in office, including known members of the far-right.
Yanny Bruere, who was behind the crowdfunding campaign that saw nearly £60,000 raised, told JOE at the protest that he had organised the event as he did not agree with the "time or place" of the protest organised against Donald Trump's visit to the UK in July.
"The world is a hellhole, it's turning into a hellhole"
A 29-feet long balloon of Sadiq Khan wearing a bikini flew over Parliament Square today
We spoke to some of the people there supporting it pic.twitter.com/gis2jOm72B
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) September 1, 2018
"I wanted to put Sadiq Khan in the same position and humiliate him in his hometown of London and put him a position where he had to approve his own blimp," he said. "When Sadiq Khan said Donald Trump wasn't welcome to the UK that really irritated a lot of normal people in Britain and didn't truly represent British people's views."
The 28-year-old denied that there was racialised element to the criticism of London's first Muslim mayor, describing the protest's critics as the "loony left" who "tried to claim it’s racism." He also dismissed accusations he is anti-Semite, saying it was "fake news," despite having previously written a series of tweets in which he claimed "Jews ran the world."
"I support Israel's right to exist and that was a fake news twist to bring negativity on [the protest]. It shows freedom of speech in the UK, if you step out of line of the agenda they target you to try to silence you," Bruere added.
The event was approved by City Hall on Thursday and Met Police presence at the event was low. As the 29-feet long balloon went into the sky there were shouts of "higher, higher, higher" and "Sadiq Khan it's time for you to go."
Despite the numbers, the crowd appeared on the cusp of violence at times. After a man confronted two men dressed in far-right Football Lads Alliance t-shirts over the ransacking of a socialist bookshop earlier this month, he was surrounded by protesters and called an "SJW" and "paedophile" before leaving the area to cheers.
Got pretty nasty this. Crowd have rounded on a man who appears to have confronted two men over an incident that saw far-right storm Bookmarks Bookshop a few weeks ago. pic.twitter.com/CQNZ448aIu
— James Dawson (@TheJayToday) September 1, 2018
Attitudes to the media were also hostile. A female BBC journalist and cameraman were subject to abuse and chants. Based Amy – who was shouting aggressively at the reporter before she was approached by JOE – branded Sadiq Khan a "disgrace."
"The mayor is a disgrace to the country and to the world, he's shameful, does not deserve the job and should be removed from office," the 49-year-old said. "He has failed desperately in his duty to protect London.
"He feels a terror attack is part and parcel of living in a big city, maybe in the Middle East, but not in London, it never was and we don't accept it."
Although Khan has no say or political power over immigration policy, she added that the crime rate in the capital was due to immigration from the "third world."
"All these behind doors agreements to let the third world come into the first world without preparation or requirements, [means] they can just flood Europe," she said. "Migrants that are clearly opposed to democracy are causing crimes."
— James Dawson (@TheJayToday) September 1, 2018
Mark Chambers, 57, who described his profession as a "children’s rights activist" said he was attending the event to "defend freedom of speech," but admitted that London's crime problems had begun before Khan became mayor. "There's not enough police officers, there's not enough control in our schools," he said.
Of the blimp, he added: "Sadiq was so in favour of the Trump blimp so let's see about freedom of speech, the only reason it's up there is because he got pushed into it. One group is allowed to talk and another's not allowed to talk. I'm here for freedom of speech."
When Donald Trump visited the capital he described how the blimp made him "feel unwelcome" as a hundred thousand people voiced their opposition in the country.
Having begun at 9:30am, the balloon was brought down from the sky and deflated around two hours later. The number in attendance was far fewer than the 9,000 on Facebook, with organisers claiming that Khan had "sabotaged" the event by forcing it to begin in the morning rather than the afternoon.
But, despite concerns about their "freedom of speech" being encroached upon, nobody ever attempted to prevent the protest from happening. And for all the attempts at "humiliation", it's unlikely that the estimated 300 or so people in attendance will make Khan feel unwelcome in Tooting tonight.