Protests, 'alternative facts' accompany Trump Tower opening
Published Monday, February 27, 2017 3:55PM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 28, 2017 5:41PM PST
Hundreds of people gathered to protest the grand opening of the months-delayed Trump International Hotel & Tower in downtown Vancouver Tuesday, casting the development as a symbol of intolerance in the city.
The $360-million tower is undoubtedly glitzy, but to the peaceful crowd that gathered outside it's also tainted by the controversial views of its namesake, U.S. President Donald Trump.
"Why is Trump's name being put on a tower here in Vancouver when the city is so diverse and cultural?" asked Nora Fadel, one of the protest organizers.
Standing behind metal barriers put up to protect the property, the crowd broke out into chants of "Love Trumps Hate." Some of the people gathered took time off work to join in the demonstration, including 28-year-old Tanner Fehr.
"The Trump name has become synonymous with fear, with ignorance, with bigotry. It's the least I could do as a Canadian to come and say something about it," he said.
Buses were re-routed during the morning rush hour to avoid potential traffic disruptions, and police cautioned commuters who use the route to give themselves extra time to get around.
A heavy police presence was visible both inside and outside of the hotel during the day, and RCMP’s Air One helicopter circled above the tower. Vancouver police Const. Jason Doucette said the aim was to keep the peace.
"Our priority is ensuring Vancouver is a safe place to live, work, and visit," Doucette told CTV News in an email.
Not everyone who gathered outside the property was a critic, however; a small handful of Trump supporters showed up as well, including one woman wearing one of the "Hillary for Prison" T-shirts sold during last year's election campaign.
Trump family attends ribbon cutting
Three of Trump's children, Donald Jr., Eric and Tiffany, flew into Vancouver on the family's private jet for the grand opening and ribbon cutting.
Both sons gave short speeches along with Joo Kim Tiah, CEO of the project's developer, Holborn Group, but none of the speakers took questions from reporters afterwards.
Their remarks were largely lists of thank-yous, including a couple of cheeky references to the local press.
"I would like to thank the media for constantly putting us in the spotlight. Your coverage has certainly brought awareness to everything we do here," Tiah said.
"I'd like to thank the press – just kidding," Donald Trump Jr. added later. "It's great to see you here. I'm shocked."
The Trump-branded tower has already been a lightning rod for controversy in Vancouver, where city officials have publicly expressed displeasure at having the controversial U.S. president's name on the skyline.
Neither Mayor Gregor Robertson, who once said the tower "flies in the face of Vancouver as a city," nor any city councillors attended the grand opening.
The Trump Organization does not own the tower, but the developer that does has said it's "locked into" its agreement to use Trump's controversial name.
"The people who ran the city were not happy with me," Tiah told The Associated Press earlier this month. "I was scared, but I think they understand."
Tia said he was "extremely stressed" when Trump launched his presidential campaign because the hotel deal had already been signed.
The hotel site has since been the site of several protests, both before and after Trump's election victory.
A tweet from The Trump Organization's official Twitter account ahead of the opening led to cries of "alternative facts" and "fake news" on social media.
The company sent a tweet claiming the $360-million project will be the "first property to open in the city" in over six years.
If referring to residential towers, the claim is demonstrably false; dozens have opened up in recent years amid Vancouver's real estate boom.
Brent Toderian, the city's former chief planner, said the claim in the Trump Organization's tweet was "so far from being true, it's laughable."
At Tuesday's grand opening, Trump Hotel CEO Eric Danziger attempted to clarify that the organization was referring to hotel properties.
"This being the first hotel to open in Vancouver in six years is very exciting for us," Danziger told the crowd.
That claim also appears to be false; Hotel Blu on Robson Street opened in 2014. The Rosewood Hotel Georgia also reopened following extensive renovations in 2011, four years after it changed ownership. It formerly operated as the Crowne Plaza Hotel Georgia.
Voting with their wallets
A new survey from Insights West suggests that locals are likely to use their wallets to voice opposition to Trump in Canada.
The online poll found that 45 per cent of Canadian respondents would be likely to boycott a hotel, restaurant or store located in a Trump-branded property.
That number jumps to 65 per cent when looking at British Columbians.
Pollster Mario Canseco said it's not like anything they've seen before.
"There might be boycotts that are caused by the fact that there's a recall or something like that, but to see something that is essentially politically motivated that is coming out of the United States, is not something we see every day," he told CTV Vancouver.
"I'd like thank the press. Just kidding," Donald Trump Jr. addresses press while opening Vancouver Trump Hotel. 100+ protesters outside. pic.twitter.com/r6PARPKOwT— CTV Darcy (@darcynews) February 28, 2017