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London Mayor Sadiq Khan Reacts To Trump's U.K. Visit


I'm Mary Louise Kelly in London where pretty much everybody all day today has been responding to, talking about, buzzing about the interview that President Trump gave to The Sun newspaper shortly before landing here in the U.K. Along with the prime minister, President Trump also tore into the mayor of London. That would be Sadiq Khan. So we have come to London's City Hall. Standing up on a balcony near the roof, we're looking down over the Thames River Tower Bridge. It's a beautiful, serene setting - not a serene day here in London. And we're going to ask Mayor Khan to respond.

Mayor Khan, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Nice to see you.

SADIQ KHAN: Good to speak to you, too.

KELLY: Good to speak with you. I'm holding a copy of The Sun, which as you know has a scathing interview with President Trump today in which he tears into you for doing a terrible job as mayor and doing a terrible job keeping this city safe. What's your response?

KHAN: Well, one of the great things about our city and our country is we have a free press. And we also have the right to protest, the right to free speech. On the particular point President Trump made in relation to terrorism and me being responsible for this terrorism - in London last year, we unfortunately lost 14 people tragically because of terrorist attacks in our city. And they're still in our thoughts and prayers. One of the comforting things was the response from our friends around the world, including from America and Americans - the love, the support, the solidarity they showed. And by the way, in Manchester, 22 people lost their lives. Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Nice - it's an evil we're all grappling with - terrorism. And it's for President Trump...

KELLY: The point being President Trump isn't attacking them.

KHAN: Well, it's for President Trump to answer why singling me out as the mayor of London, not mentioning the other mayors - he's got to explain why he's doing that. It's not for me to do so.

KELLY: What about his attack on Theresa May?

KHAN: Well, he's entitled have his views. I'm not going to rise to the individual things President Trump says. I'm hoping during the course of his visit he sees a city and a country very comfortable with ourselves, very comfortable with our diversity. That's something we should celebrate and not be scared of.

KELLY: Speaking of protests, down near Parliament today - a giant Trump baby blimp. You signed off on this. You have history of bad blood with President Trump. Is this your way of taking a pot shot at him?

KHAN: It really isn't. And let me tell you why it really isn't. Look; one of the things that we're really proud of in our country as indeed Americans are in their country is freedom to protest and freedom of speech. It's not for me to be a censor. Let me give you an example of the freedom to protest. So today in London, there are protests taking place. You mentioned the balloon. Tomorrow there's - there will be protests in our city from the extreme far-right, from pro-Trump supporters. I may not agree with the extreme far-right, but they should be allowed to protest. The key thing - it should be peaceful, and it should be safe. And the idea in 2018 that we should be stopping people protesting in innovative ways they've found to protest...

KELLY: But the blimp is such a striking visual. It will be the image beamed around the world of London, the city you run, all day today. It will be seen as London raising a middle finger to President Trump.

KHAN: What it should be seen as is a beacon of the rights of Londoners to protest. And by the way, one of the things that the U.S. and the U.K. have in common is our special relationship. And that special relationship has led to us defeating fascism, who wanted to curtail our rights of free speech and freedom to protest.

And one of the great things about being a Londoner and having the values that we have is that we get to protest. You may not always agree with them. You may think sometimes they're not as good-spirited and as humorous as you'd want them to be. So - but you can't just allow those protests take place that you agree with a hundred percent.

KELLY: But is there any limit to what you would allow?

KHAN: Absolutely.

KELLY: If somebody wanted to float a blimp of a naked Theresa May...

KHAN: Oh, look; absolutely...

KELLY: ...Over Parliament, that would be OK?

KHAN: Look; the limitations are quite clear. They're there in the rules. They've got to be peaceful. They've got to be safe. It's really important that police...

KELLY: A naked Theresa May would be peaceful and safe. Would that be all right?

KHAN: It's really important that police sign off on them as well. So a blimp has got to be signed off by - not just by City Hall staff, certainly by the police and the National Air Traffic Services as well. But people are finding...

KELLY: But you run this town. You allowed this.

KHAN: Well, can you imagine what your listeners would think if the politicians curtailing free speech, curtailing the right to protest simply because somebody's offended - what's next? The key thing is it should be done in a peaceful manner and should be good-spirited.

KELLY: Mayor Khan, thank you for taking the time.

KHAN: My pleasure.

KELLY: That's Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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