LONDON (AP) _ Some ``Luvya Dubya,″ some loathe him, but neither side shaped up as a mass movement Wednesday on President Bush’s first full day in London on a state visit.
With the main protest march a day away, demonstrators were often outnumbered by police, reporters, tourists and camera crews.
Bush, who was asked repeatedly before his arrival about expected protests in London, joked Wednesday that his situation was like that of American magician David Blaine’s 44-day starvation stunt.
``It was pointed out to me that the last noted American to visit London stayed in a glass box dangling over the Thames,″ Bush told an audience of academics in London. ``A few might have been happy to provide similar arrangements for me.″
A small crowd could see Bush at a distance in the morning at his official welcome from Queen Elizabeth II, but otherwise he was largely out of sight as he moved from Buckingham Palace to a speech in central London and then to the U.S. Embassy.
The number of protesters outside the palace grew into the hundreds later in the day, and police scuffled with some demonstrators.
The protesters made the noise, but Bush didn’t lack for friends among Britons.
Twenty-five year-old Kay Moult stood outside the palace in a T-shirt proclaiming ``Luvya Dubya.″
``I just like George Bush,″ Moult said. ``I have since Sept. 11. I think he’s done a great job of holding his country together and I think he’s a decent guy.″
``He’s seems a bit arrogant, maybe,″ said Caroline Takis, a 24-year-old secretary, citing Bush’s support for capital punishment and opposition to abortion. ``He wouldn’t have been my choice for president.″
Arrogance has been a frequent accusation against Bush and his administration in Britain and across Europe. Prime Minister Tony Blair has differed with Bush over American rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the International Criminal Court _ both examples of what critics see as Bush’s unilateralism.
The same charge is heard about the war in Iraq, and a large segment of opinion in Britain wishes Blair had not joined the coalition. Opponents of the war hope to gather 100,000 or more people to march Thursday to protest the invasion of Iraq.
``I take the positive view on Mr. Bush because I think it is necessary to fight the evil in the world and I think he has,″ said Henri Cabollet, 56, a visitor from Holland who was seeing the sights in Trafalgar Square.
``Personally, I find Bush Jr. is a better person than his father. What he says, he does,″ Cabollet said.
Angela Shackleton, a London office worker, said she liked America and Americans ``but there’s something about Bush that’s a bit contrived. You listen to his speeches and its either gung-ho or sugary and syrupy.″
Tom Eisner, a violinist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, joined a march waving a large United Nations flag.
``I don’t consider myself a loony lefty at all, but I don’t like the way the Americans are trying to create a rift between the U.S. and Europe,″ he said. ``Nations should work together rather than just the U.S. telling them what to do.″
Joseph Geadah, who was stuck in a traffic jam caused by a protest he didn’t support, said that ``America and England have been partners for a long period of time and are just trying to restore freedom to the Iraqi people.
``It is just a slow and painful process,″ Geadah said.
Cab driver Tommy Purdue said, ``It’s ruined my day and it will until Friday because you can’t get anywhere.″ Nonetheless, the 66-year-old said Bush was ``very welcome.″
``Why do we need state visits anyway? Why can’t they just communicate with each other over the phone?″ Purdue said.