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BRUSSELS – European activists protested Saturday against U.S. President Donald Trump's upcoming appearance at NATO, marching through Belgium's capital to plead for less military spending and more public money for schools and clean energy.
The "Trump Not Welcome" march and a companion concert came as European and North American leaders prepare for an annual summit at NATO's Brussels headquarters. Trump accuses NATO allies of not doing enough to defend themselves and is demanding that they increase their military budgets.
The protest organizers oppose more military spending, and attracted a high-spirited, diverse crowd of thousands that wended through central Brussels while demonstrating on behalf of multiple causes during the peaceful march.
"NATO Game Over" read one banner; others read "Pro-America, Anti-Trump." Some protesters waved rainbow banners and Palestinian and Cuban flags.
Others campaigned for keeping immigrant families together or stopping austerity plans that hurt the poor; for the closure of coal and nuclear plants; or for an end to racism and sexism.
The U.S. president is heading for Europe as his protectionist trade policies and withdrawal from the Paris climate accord have angered some of the leaders he will see at the NATO summit on Wednesday and Thursday.
Members of the western military alliance have agreed on a goal of each country devoting 2 percent of GDP to defense within a decade. The alliance agreed to stop cutting defense budgets after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014.
Trump's aggressive stance toward NATO allies who have not advanced toward the target has created tensions. He wrote the leaders of Denmark, Norway, Canada and Germany last month to ratchet up the pressure, saying "the United States is increasingly unwilling to ignore the European failure to meet shared security commitments."