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EDINBURGH, Scotland — President Donald Trump's retreat to his golf course here this weekend inspired a dramatic display as Greenpeace sent a paraglider with a banner that said "Trump Well Below Par" over the roof of the resort's main building Friday.
The paraglider breached a no-fly zone, sparking a police hunt for the suspect, and dashed any hope that the president could spend a weekend out of the spotlight after tumultuous week on the world stage. Thousands showed up to protest his presence not far from his Turnberry resort on the west coast of Scotland where he is staying.
Few in the U.K's northernmost country offered a more welcoming atmosphere than the tens of thousands of demonstrators who marched in mass in London on Friday. The Scottish served up their own protests, marking the president's visit with noisy demonstrations in Glasgow, a “carnival of resistance” in Edinburgh and rallies outside his coastal resorts in Turnberry, Ayrshire and Balmedie, Aberdeenshire.
Police Scotland drafted 5,000 officers to provide extra security at a cost of up to $6.6 million.
Because of the large protests, the president decided to largely avoid London during his trip, perhaps mindful of being confronted or associated with a mass display of public rejection. It appears Trump has had to keep the same in mind here in Scotland.
Late Friday in Glasgow, thousands staged a rally in George Square against the president and his policies.
Thousands more gathered for a march through Edinburgh's city center on Saturday morning. An unofficial police estimate put the number at more than 10,000.
Waving an array of makeshift anti-Trump banners, the protest snaked past the U.S. Consulate, which was protected by heavy security, then onto The Meadows where speakers and singers addressed the crowd and the infamous Trump baby blimp joined in, floating overhead.
Tommy Sheppard, a lawmaker in the Scottish National Party, told the crowd: “This man is now the international cheerleader for bigotry, intolerance and prejudice throughout the world and we have to say no to that."
“We say to America the world is with you in trying to combat the policies of his administration.”
Among those listening was Kirsty Inch, 38, from Fife, who said: “This has been a civilized and peaceful protest against a man who is neither of those things. Trump is not welcome in Scotland.”
These types of comments fly in the face of Trump's long-professed special connection to Scotland, the land of his mother's birth.
After Trump arrived in Scotland late Friday night, the protests served as a strong reminder of a European trip that has thus far been marred by contentious talks with U.S. allies at the NATO summit in Brussels; public criticism of British Prime Minister Theresa May over trade and Brexit; mass demonstrations against his visit in London and the dramatic spectacle of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announcing a new raft of indictments in the Russia probe just as Trump was arriving at Windsor Castle for tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
And so the president was expected to enjoy some quiet rounds of golf at Trump Turnberry on Scotland’s west coast — one of his two championship-level resorts in the country — as he prepared for his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
Describing golf as "my primary form of exercise," Trump wrote on Twitter: "The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible! Tomorrow I go to Helsinki for a Monday meeting with Vladimir Putin."
He last visited Scotland and his golf course in 2016, when he held a press conference commending the Brexit vote and took reporters on a tour by golf cart.
“President Trump knows this country probably better than any president in recent history,” Trump’s ambassador to the U.K., Robert “Woody” Johnson, told reporters ahead of Trump’s trip.
But ever since he ventured into Scotland a dozen years ago, Trump has been losing money and waging battles with longtime residents, wind farms and local politicians.
David Milne, whose property overlooks Trump International Links, planned to mark the president’s visit the same way he did the last time Trump appeared: flying the Mexican national flag over his house within sight of the clubhouse to protest Trump’s hardline immigration views.
A lone Greenpeace protester flew a banner reading "Trump: Well Below Par" over Turnberry as the president arrived Friday evening, while campaigners were staging a rally early Saturday outside Trump International Links in Balmedie, where Eric Trump spent Thursday.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did not greet Trump and is not expected to meet him on this visit.
However, he was met by the U.K. government’s Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who said: “I was pleased to greet Mr. Trump on behalf of the U.K. Government when he arrived in Scotland. The U.K. and the USA have a long and important relationship — we have close cultural ties, a strong economic partnership and the U.S. is one of our most important security allies.
“The president’s visit is an opportunity to strengthen those vital links. Mr. Trump is passionate about his Scottish heritage, and I hope he enjoys his visit to Scotland.”
Some supporters of Trump will also march in London. British Trade Secretary Liam Fox said in a radio appearance early Saturday morning that anti-Trump protesters were "an embarrassment to themselves" as they had shown bad manners to the leader of the free world.