President Trump returned to his hometown on Monday to kick off the 100th annual New York City Veterans Day Parade, his second visit to the city since he announced he was making Florida his primary home.
In an 18-minute speech, Mr. Trump expressed his gratitude to American veterans, but also used his remarks to pay tribute to the city, where he remains deeply unpopular.
“Since the earliest days of our nation, New York has exemplified the American spirit and has been at the heart of our nation’s story of daring and defiance,” Mr. Trump said.
Defiance, in particular, was on display throughout Mr. Trump’s speech, at Madison Square Park in Manhattan, just two miles down Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower, which had been Mr. Trump’s primary residence since 1983, until he filed to switch it to Florida in late September.
Even before the president arrived, protesters had gathered along the streets, a number of them from an anti-Trump group, Rise and Resist. They carried signs calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment and repeatedly shouted, “Shame!”
In the windows of a nearby glass tower overlooking the dais where Mr. Trump spoke, large signs placed in the windows spelled out the word “impeach.” A few floors higher, letters spelling “convict” were placed in another set of windows.
As Mr. Trump, who is the first sitting president to take part in the parade, addressed the crowd, he was met with claps and cheers as he listed specific American military victories and recounted stories of individual veterans.
“Today, we come together as one nation to salute the veterans of the United States Armed Forces, the greatest warriors to ever walk the face of the Earth,” Mr. Trump said.
Some of his supporters gathered nearby, many of them wearing hats bearing Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
But raucous boos and chants jeering Mr. Trump could also be heard throughout the president’s remarks. A chorus of people shouted “lock him up!” and “traitor” and blew whistles as he spoke, causing some veterans to complain that the din was drowning out the president’s speech.
“Vote him out if you don’t like him,” said Dennis Currier, 72, a Bronx resident who served in combat in the Vietnam War. “But don’t come here and be disrespectful on Veterans Day. They have a right to demonstrate, but there’s a time and a place for that.”
The only time the protesters fell silent was during a moment of silence and a wreath-laying ceremony honoring fallen soldiers.
Elliot Crown, 47, came to Mr. Trump’s speech wearing army fatigues, a clown nose and a farcical oversized mustache. He and a friend carried a sign reading “Operation Bone Spur,” a reference to a diagnosis that allowed Mr. Trump to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.
“He’s always pretending to be something he’s not,” Mr. Crown said. “And he certainly isn’t a supporter of veterans.”
Mr. Trump helped boost the parade in 1995 when it was struggling to attract donations, writing a check for over $300,000. In return, he asked to be made the grand marshal, an honor he was not bestowed because he never served in the military.
Still, being honored by the parade had remained a goal of Mr. Trump’s. So when the opportunity arrived this year to take part, he was pleased.
Mr. Trump has generally received more support from veterans than from the public at large. According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of veterans said they approved of the way Mr. Trump was leading the military, compared with 41 percent of adults overall.
Last year, an Associated Press poll found that 56 percent of veterans said they approved of the job Mr. Trump was doing as president, compared with 42 percent of the general public.
Still, Mr. Trump has been criticized by some veterans groups over incidents where he was perceived as being disrespectful to those who had served.
During the campaign and his presidency, he frequently attacked Senator John McCain, saying the former Navy pilot was “not a war hero” and criticizing the senator, who died in 2018, for his record on military and veterans’ issues.
Mr. Trump also drew condemnations after he disparaged the parents of a slain Muslim soldier who had strongly denounced Mr. Trump during the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Mr. Trump’s rise to the ranks of the rich and famous has been inextricably linked to New York City, and he has spoken often of his affectionate for it. He was born in Queens and built his real estate empire in Manhattan, quickly becoming a fixture in the city’s tabloid papers and sprinkling his name on buildings across the region.
As Mr. Trump began his presidential campaign, he used the city as his backdrop, starting his eventual journey to the White House in the lobby of Trump Tower.
But three years into his presidency, Mr. Trump’s relationship with the city has become bitter and contentious. His name was removed from residential high-rises and a hotel in SoHo after numerous complaints, and the Central Park skating rinks that his company runs diminished the presence of his name on signs.
The president is also locked in a legal battle with Manhattan’s district attorney over a subpoena for his personal and business tax records. And last week New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, announced a $2 million settlement in a lawsuit that accused the president of using money raised by his charitable foundation to promote his presidential campaign and pay business debts.
That investigation grew out of claims that a fund-raiser for veterans in January 2016 was in fact, Mr. Trump later acknowledged in court papers, a campaign event.
The president’s visits to New York have often been met with protests. Earlier this month, Mr. Trump swung by an Ultimate Fighting Championship event at Madison Square Garden, where he was also met by both boos and cheers.
In late September, Mr. Trump filed court documents saying that he was becoming a resident of Florida and that the Mar-a-Lago Club was his primary dwelling. On Twitter, he said that while he cherished New York, the city with which he had become closely associated during his rise to fame, he had been “treated very badly” by officials there.
“Few have been treated worse,” he said. “I hated having to make this decision, but in the end it will be the best for all concerned.”
Demonstrators said they were specifically targeting Mr. Trump’s speech and had no plans to protest the annual parade, in which more than 20,000 people were expected to participate.
“We’re not protesting the vets, we’re protesting Trump,” said Jamie Bauer, 60, who was part of Rise and Resist. “We respect the vets, and there are several veterans in our group.”
Rebecca Liebson and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.
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