At Vancouver’s Trump Tower grand opening, two worlds collide

Click to play video: 'Protests at opening of Vancouver’s Trump Tower'
Protests at opening of Vancouver’s Trump Tower
Protests at opening of Vancouver's Trump Tower – Feb 28, 2017

At Tuesday’s grand opening of Vancouver’s Trump Tower, the property owners put their best foot forward, ignoring the controversies surrounding its namesake – U.S. President Donald Trump.

The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony began shortly after 10:30 a.m. in a ballroom packed to the brim with media, real estate executives from developer The Holborn Group and TA Global, security, secret service and of course, Trump family members.

Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, both executive vice presidents and trustees for the Trump Organization, were in attendance along with their wives and sibling Tiffany Trump. The Trumps joined Holborn CEO Joo Kim Tiah and his father, Tony Tiah Thee Kian — one of Malaysia’s richest businessmen — for the official ceremony.

WATCH: There were protestors in front of the Vancouver Trump Tower for its grand opening, but not as many as expected

Click to play video: 'Anti-Trump protest fall short of expectations'
Anti-Trump protest fall short of expectations
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During the remarks from Joo Kim and both Trump brothers, there was little to no mention of the American president. However, Donald Jr. made light of his father’s turbulent relationship with the media.

“I’d like to thank the press. Just kidding,” Donald Jr. joked about 30 seconds into his speech. “It’s great to see you here. I’m shocked, I’m absolutely shocked.”

In about 25 minutes of speeches, there was no mention of the Vancouver tower’s past controversies or the protesters outside.

In December 2015, Mayor Gregor Robertson called on developers to remove Trump’s name from the tower’s branding after the then-candidate pledged to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Last November, after Trump won the election, someone changed the tower’s name to “Dump Tower” on Google Maps.

The building also faced long construction delays that pushed up its opening date until after Trump’s inauguration. And, the address has been a popular gathering point for protesters railing against Islamophobia, misogyny, transgender discrimination, hate and aggression.

Tuesday’s event was an opportunity to showcase the twisting tower’s inside.

Media were ushered through the hotel by men and women wearing suits and white gloves. They were taken first to “The Spa by Ivanka” where massage rooms were on full display. Then, into a 10th floor luxury suite with a sweeping view of the downtown core. Televisions in every suite on the tour were tuned to CBC and BBC – no CNN in sight.

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It was then onto Drai’s nightclub – a space doubling as an indoor pool during the day and dance club at night. Giant video screens above the DJ booth flashed scenes of nearly-naked women dancing, while staff talked up the cocktail menu.

Jill Slattery / Global News
Inside one of the suites at Vancouver Trump Tower. Jill Slattery / Global News
The Trump brand is plastered on every thing inside the hotel. Jill Slattery / Global News
Drais nightclub inside the Vancouver Trump Tower. Jill Slattery / Global News
Drais nightclub inside the Vancouver Trump Tower. Jill Slattery / Global News
Cocktails served inside Vancouver Trump Tower. Jill Slattery / Global News

The tour ended at the front foyer of the hotel, situated behind the glistening “TRUMP” signage outside where protesters chanted and raised their signs directly outside the windows while staff tried their best to body-block the media from taking photos, instead offering them cocktails at the back of the room.

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It was a different picture on the other side of the thick glass doors.

A rare shot of the protest from inside the Trump Tower. Jill Slattery / Global News
Jill Slattery / Global News

On Monday there were estimates that thousands of people would attend the protest, but Vancouver Police estimated about 150 demonstrators were there on Tuesday morning. Despite their small numbers, the protesters loudly made their point, repeatedly chanting “Love Trumps Hate.”

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“It’s horrible that Vancouver, as such a progressive city, would have something like this going up here,” one protester told Global News.

Henry Ho, also from Vancouver, had never been to a protest before but arrived in front of Trump Tower carrying signs that read “Dump Trump” and “Is it 2020 yet?”

“We’re not just going to be quiet and let things happen the way they are,” said the 27-year-old self-described supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“We will show that we can come together and aren’t divided by all the hate he spews out.”

A handful of Trump fans turned up to show their support for the development and the president.

Dawn Russell from Coquitlam was hard to miss, wearing a “Hillary for Prison 2016” T-shirt.

“Not all Canadians are brainwashed,” she told Global News. She admitted she had already been “verbally abused, pushed and laughed at” several times.

“[Donald Trump] is a true leader and honestly I wish he was president of North America,” she said.
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She would like Canada to have a temporary ban on immigration and become more of a sovereign nation.

As Russell spoke, echoing many of the policies Trump has pledged to support, a number of people gathered around inserting exclamations of “Make America Great Again.”

If the anti-Trump protesters were disgruntled by Russell’s presence, it wasn’t obvious. Drowning out her opinions were the beating sound of First Nations drummers and repetitive chants.

The crowd stretched onto the far right lane of Georgia Street and was heavily protected by police. On the tower side, private security personnel stood firm in between the protest fence and the building itself.

From inside the hotel, you would hardly have known there was a commotion outside at all.

“Vancouver is really one of the most beautiful places in the world, and it’s so fitting for the Trump brand,” Eric Trump told the crowd inside.

“I believe that this project is the not only the best in the city, but the best in Canada,” Joo Kim said. “It will remain the most iconic building in Vancouver for a very long time.”

Iconic for those inside Trump Tower today. Infamous for those on the outside.

Jill Slattery / Global News

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