Protesters: Bush not welcome
Mell Harrison, from Theatre of War, puts finishing touches to Bush statue.
CNN's Robin Oakley on tight security in London the U.S. president's state visit.
CNN's John King on protesters gearing up for the arrival of the U.S. president.
|BUSH'S UK VISIT ITINERARY|
|Tuesday, November 18
• Arrives and meets with royal family in a private function.Wednesday, November 19
• Attends formal welcoming ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
• Meets Britain's opposition leaders.
• Delivers speech on trans-Atlantic alliance.
• Meets British families "who lost loved ones on September 11."
• Speaks at state banquet in Buckingham Palace.Thursday, November 20
• Visits Westminster Abbey and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
• Meets soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families.
• Holds talks with Blair.
• Co-hosts roundtable discussion on HIV/AIDS with Blair
• Hosts reciprocal dinner for the queen.Friday, November 21
• Travels to Blair's northern England constituency of Sedgefield before returning to Washington.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of anti-war campaigners are preparing to give George W. Bush a hostile reception when he arrives on what is described as the first state visit to Britain by a U.S. president.
While Bush stays as a guest of Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace and holds meetings with Prime Minister Tony Blair, protesters angry over the official invitation are planning a series of marches and stunts during his three-day trip next week.
One of those will be the toppling of a statue of Bush from a plinth in Trafalgar Square in a symbolic aping of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led forces this year.
The six-meter (18-foot) papier-mache effigy was built by Mell Harrison and her colleagues from peace group Theatre of War at her home in Suffolk, eastern England.
"Bush needs to know the people of Britain are not happy with him and I think (the statue toppling) will raise the issue that we still care that people are dying in Iraq," she told CNN.
But she and many other activists are resigned to the fact that the president is unlikely to see any of the protests.
"I think it would be fantastic if he actually realized that there was an opposition to him coming and to see that we can be creative with our protest too," Harrison added.
Although the demonstrations threaten to take the gloss of what White House officials no doubt hoped would be a triumphal visit, Bush maintained they would not faze him. (Full story)
The president hopes to meet the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and said he would tell them their loved ones died fighting for a noble cause and that he grieves for their sacrifice.
"I am so pleased to be going to a country which says that people are allowed to express their mind. That's fantastic. Freedom is a beautiful thing," he told the Press Association.
"The fact that people are willing to come out and express themselves says I'm going to a great country."
The protests began before the president even left the White House. On Monday, one woman climbed the gates of Buckingham Palace to attach an upside-down U.S. flag with a message to the queen that Bush -- who is to stay at the palace as a guest of Queen Elizabeth -- is "not welcome."
Security in London has intensified ahead of the trip, especially following deadly attacks in Istanbul and Riyadh in the last two weeks. Bush himself said those bombings demonstrate al Qaeda's willingness to "kill innocent people anywhere, any time."
Authorities have said they fear terrorists could blend in with the protesters to try to carry out an attack, and that ensuring the president's security is foremost on their minds.
But in a victory for protesters, police Monday said demonstrators would be allowed to pass in front of Blair's office and the Houses of Parliament en route to Trafalgar Square.
"We will allow and help demonstrators to make their point as we always do in London," said Andy Trotter, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
"What we will be firm about is people who are here to make trouble."
While protesters are expected to be most vocal about Bush's Iraq policy, many have said they also resent his reluctance to fight global warming and his refusal to involve America in the International Criminal Court or in international efforts against land mines or chemical and biological weapons development.
"The British public are opposed to this war in Iraq. They are opposed to U.S. foreign policies," said Jeremy Corbyn, a Labor lawmaker.
The impact of the trip on Blair is uncertain.
"I think if Tony Blair falls in the next year or so, Iraq and his decision to play very close to George Bush will undoubtedly be a crucial factor," said Peter Riddell, a Bush-Blair biographer.
It's destroyed the element of trust that was with the British people, and also strained his relationship with his own party."