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Donald Trump immediately — and predictably — waded into the U.K. decision to leave the European Union as soon as he arrived in Scotland Friday, telling reporters minutes after stepping out of his helicopter that a Brexit was a “great thing” and that Brits had “taken back their country.”
Speaking to the media before a press conference due later in the day, he brought up the subject of immigration, which has been a issue among the “leave” campaigners.
“People are angry. All over the world they’re angry,” he said. “They’re angry over borders, they’re angry over people coming into the country and taking over and nobody even knows who they are. They’re angry about many, many things in the U.K., the U.S. and many other places. This will not be the last.”
Trump, who had publicly backed Britain’s exit from the EU, has no political business in Scotland: the U.S. presidential hopeful is there for the official re-opening of a golf resort bearing his name.
His arrival was greeted with reports of numerous protests, with hundreds expected to gather to show their disgust at the presumed Republican candidate who they accuse of racism and bigotry. In true Scottish spirit, some were said to be be carrying Mexican flags, while a group dressed as a Mariachi band was also said to have traveled to greet Trump.
Not all were successful, however, with Scottish air traffic control issuing a no-fly zone over the golf course, meaning a plane crowd-funded by the 38 Degrees campaign group and trailing a banner that read “Love Trumps Hate” was unable to get near its intended target.
The protests have been backed by several organizations, including Stand Up to Racism Scotland, the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and Unite the Union Scotland. They accuse Trump of “ramped up levels of racism, Islamophobia, and bigotry” during his presidential bid. More than half a million people signed a petition from Stand Up to Trump calling for the billionaire-turned-politician to be banned from entering the U.K. because of his proposed policies, including building a wall on the country’s border with Mexico and temporarily banning Muslims from entering America.
“His message of hate is one that we’ll challenge and we would not encourage anyone to support him in his presidency,” Keir McKechnie, spokesman for Stand Up to Racism Scotland, told the BBC. “Although this protest happens to be taking place in Scotland, we want to represent people across the whole of the U.K. and beyond who reject Trump’s racism and Islamophobia.”
The organizations bussed in demonstrators from across the country to the Trump golf resort in Turnberry, on Scotland’s west coast.
Jonathan Shafi, a coordinator of Scotland Against Trump, another protest organization, has argued that Trump is “damaging to the Scottish economy,” despite claims he has brought jobs and much-needed investment to the region.
Ahead of Trump’s arrival, police forces in Scotland said they had consulted with several of the protest groups to ensure demonstrations were peaceful.
Trump’s immigration policies are the main focus of the Scottish protests, but the timing of his visit, coming right after the Brexit vote, will only add fuel to the anti-Trump fire.
Britain as a whole voted to leave the EU, but a strong majority of Scottish voters backed the “remain” camp. Many expect the Brexit vote could now trigger a second referendum in Scotland to leave the U.K.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Friday that a second referendum “was definitively on the table” and that “Scotland sees its future as part of the EU.”
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