LONDON – So far, President Bush (search) hasn't heard the hecklers.
Fewer than 100 anti-war protesters (search) were standing outside Buckingham Palace (search) on Tuesday night as Bush and his entourage arrived in two helicopters. The president and wife Laura landed deep inside the walled-off estate in central London, far beyond earshot of a few dozen stalwarts shouting "Bush go home!" and other invectives.
"We haven't got started yet. You just wait 'til Thursday!" vowed protester Ann Butler, 63, who had taken the train into London from suburban Kent county in hopes of getting within shouting distance of Bush. "He thinks he's Wyatt Earp, but he's nothing but trouble for our country."
Police planned a major security operation during Bush's stay. Hundreds of officers were deployed Tuesday night on foot patrols around Buckingham Palace, some of them armed -- unusual in Britain -- with firearms as well as batons and pepper spray.
On Wednesday, Bush is to meet British veterans of the Iraq invasion and dine with Queen Elizabeth II and many dignitaries at a palace banquet. Anti-Bush protesters are planning a few small rallies, including one outside the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy, in support of Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist suspects detained without trial in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The real test of anti-Bush sentiment comes Thursday. The Stop the War Coalition expects 100,000 to march past Parliament and the nearby Downing Street office of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's major ally in the troubled occupation of Iraq.
London's left-wing mayor, Ken Livingstone, a critic of Blair's foreign policy, told the protesters they would command "the moral high ground" only if they keep their demonstrations violence-free.
But Bush's arrival attracted more tourists and local gawkers than hard-line critics.
"I just got off work and decided to see what was happening. I was expecting a lot more people," said Jeffrey Martin, a native of Dallas, Texas, who is working as a researcher in the British Parliament.
Martin said he's no fan of Bush, but backs the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. "I just hope to God our boys get out of there as soon as possible," he said of the U.S. troops.
A few in the crowd outside the palace wanted Bush to know they back him to the hilt.
"I support my president. He's facing a tough crowd over here," said Mike Rigas, 31, a Boston native working in a bank in London. He sported a U.S. flag and a British plastic red poppy -- the symbol worn in Britain each November to commemorate British war dead -- on his jacket lapel.
Rigas said most Britons he talked to were fairly supportive of the president.
Butler, one of the hard-line protesters, overheard Rigas' remark -- and tore into it.
"Our anger is real. We've lost enough men in enough wars already. We shouldn't have to lose any more in a place that shouldn't concern us," said Butler, who was born during the German aerial blitz of London.
Earlier Tuesday, more than 500 environmentalists paraded to the U.S. Embassy to protest Bush's 2001 rejection of the Kyoto treaty, which proposed tough new pollution-eradication standards that the president called unrealistic.
"We're the ones with the least time left to make a difference on the planet, however small," said Lillian Mirmak, 67, marching with a group of London retirees.
Like the protesters outside Buckingham Palace, the environmentalists chanted anti-Bush slogans and booed as the presidential helicopters passed overhead.
Madeline Kekwick, 73, rued the amount of money being spent in Iraq when people's needs remained great at home.
"We pensioners don't get 100 pounds (about $150) a week," she said, "and they're spending millions on the war."
The British Broadcasting Corp., meanwhile, reported sharpshooters were posted on the roof of Buckingham Palace, where the Bushes are staying.
In Sedgefield, the northeastern English town Bush and Blair will visit on Friday, police used blowtorches to seal manholes and closed drains to secure the town.