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Vancouver Trump tower opening met with protests

Protesters hold signs outside of the Trump International Hotel and Tower during its grand opening in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada February 28, 2017.

David Ryder/REUTERS

As President Donald Trump's two sons officially opened their namesake hotel and residential tower in downtown Vancouver, hundreds of protesters filled the front sidewalk, chanting their denunciation of the U.S. administration while tensions flared with the handful of Trump supporters on hand.

Shouting erupted and a few shoving matches threatened to get out of hand before bystanders stepped in to physically separate supporters and detractors, but no punches were thrown.

At its peak, the day-long demonstration outside the new Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver drew about 300 participants, many bearing anti-Trump signs and breaking into chants of "Love trumps hate" or renditions of O Canada. Local politicians stayed away, with one characterizing the tower as a beacon of "sexism, bigotry and bullying."

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About a handful of Trump supporters were also present, some clad in signature red hats bearing the slogan "Make America great again." A few tense exchanges between supporters and detractors escalated into shoving matches before other members of the crowd intervened.

Protesters said the U.S. President's contentious approach to issues including immigration, LGBTQ rights and freedom of the press concerned them and they participated in the demonstration to register their dissent.

Mara Hansen Staples, who moved to Vancouver from Seattle in late 2015, stood in the crowd bearing a neon yellow sign calling for the boycott of Trump hotels and suppliers.

"I'm super concerned with Trump's policies on many levels related to health care, foreign policy, education, his outlook on women," she said. "I'm here protesting because I feel his policies and his brand have no place in a city like Vancouver, which prides itself on being very progressive and inclusive."

Peter McCue said he attended to make known his concerns about truth and democratic principles.

"During the American election, there were many comments made where people said, 'Don't exaggerate comparisons of Trump to Germany in the 1930s,'" he said. "And yet since his election, the demonizing of the press, calling the press the 'enemy of the American people,' the issues around immigration … that's something that concerns all citizens of the world. It's not just an American issue."

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Riordan Wry, who fashioned his own "Make America great again" hat, said he supports what the U.S. President has come to represent.

"He is the embodiment of the backlash against this progressive, politically correct, safe-space culture that's cropped up the last couple of years," Mr. Wry said. "That alone makes him my candidate of choice."

Tyler Chong, who also wore a MAGA hat, said he was not previously interested in politics, but that President Trump inspires him.

"I like his immigration reform and his wall," the 20-year-old said. "You have to get tough on immigration. You can't have these illegal people just coming into the country."

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. However, the mayor has been a vocal opponent of the Trump brand, having asked the tower's developer to drop the name.

"It is … my belief that Trump's name and brand have no more place on Vancouver's skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world," Mr. Robertson wrote in a December, 2015, letter to Holborn Group, which jointly developed the tower with TA Global Berhad.

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In an interview on Tuesday, TA Global chief executive officer Joo Kim Tiah acknowledged Mr. Robertson's public opposition.

"Initially, I guess I was a little taken aback," said Mr. Tiah, who is also president of Holborn Group. "I didn't expect it. But politics is one thing and politicians do what they do."

City councillor Kerry Jang said he anticipates such protests and dissent to continue at the Vancouver tower.

"The name is forever associated with the worst of human behaviour," he said in an interview on Tuesday. "Trump is now synonymous with sexism, bigotry and bullying, and that is so not Vancouver."

An Insights West poll released Tuesday found that 45 per cent of 1,000 Canadian adults surveyed are "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to boycott a hotel, restaurant or store in a Trump-branded property, including 65 per cent of British Columbians.

Across Canada, 76 per cent of respondents said they have an unfavourable opinion of the U.S. President, including 90 per cent of British Columbians.

With a report from Brent Jang.

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News reporter

Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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