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President Donald Trump's two eldest sons attended the grand opening of their company's new hotel and condominium tower in Vancouver on Tuesday, where they were greeted by protests in this Canadian city known for its diversity and progressive politics.
Protesters, some carrying posters proclaiming, "Love Trumps Hate," surrounded the building's entrance while police and security officers in black suits gathered on sidewalks at the soaring tower, which has drawn praise for its sleek design but has also raised ethical concerns about the business interests of the new U.S. president.
"The name Trump has now become synonymous not with luxury and lifestyle, but with racism, sexism and intolerance," said City Councilman Kerry Jang, who was among the city officials boycotting the event.
Despite the protests and controversy, however, the Trump brothers said Vancouver was the perfect location for a new Trump enterprise.
"Vancouver is truly one of the great cities of the world. It's truly one of the most beautiful places in the world and it's so fitting for the Trump brand," Eric Trump said in a speech before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Trump Organization is licensing the name to the building and managing the hotel, but does not own it.
Joo Kim Tiah, the tower’s Malaysian developer, said he found it "extremely stressful" when Trump entered politics well after he signed the partnership agreement with the Trump organization.
"I was terrified," Joo Kim of the Canada-based development firm Holborn told the Associated Press. "The people who ran the city were not happy with me. I was scared, but I think they understand. They understand that I'm trapped into — not trapped, locked into — an agreement."
As the opening ceremony took place Tuesday inside the gleaming 69-story tower, people carrying anti-Trump signs took part in a raucous demonstration to the sound of reggae music outside. Protesters crowded the building's entrance, including Henry Ho, who brought signs with messages that included "Dump Trump," and "Is it 2020 yet?"
"I believe a president should be at his core a good person," the Vancouver resident said. "I don't feel like that comes from Donald Trump."
While the Trump-branded tower is a source of anger for many, the new hotel and its namesake do have some support in the region.
"President and hotel owner are two different things. If he can separate the two, all the power to him," said Joe Taylor, a resident of British Columbia. "At least he's got the nerve to say what's on his mind. If people don't like it, well, they're not used to that."
The Trump brothers did not take questions after the ceremony.
The chief White House ethics lawyers under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have criticized Trump's turning over control of his business to his sons, saying it does not eliminate potential conflicts of interest.
Legal experts also say Trump's overseas businesses could violate the "emoluments clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments or companies they control without the consent of Congress. A liberal-funded watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against Trump citing the clause