Thousands of demonstrators roared "shame, shame, shame" and "not my president!" while watching for Trump's motorcade along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, but it ultimately approached from another direction. A far smaller crowd of Trump supporters also awaited him.
Onlookers who did see the motorcade greeted it with cellphone cameras and a few obscene gestures.
By the tower, some protesters carried signs with such messages as "impeach" and "the White House is no place for white supremacy." Chants including "love, not hate - that's what makes America great" and "New York hates you!" echoed off the surrounding buildings. Nearby, an inflatable, rat-like caricature of Trump stood by The Plaza hotel.
Adam Vazquez had protested at Trump Tower on Election Night and said he returned because he felt the country had hit "a pivotal point," particularly after the white supremacist rally that descended into violence Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Republican president's initial condemnation of bigotry and violence "on many sides, on many sides" spurred two days of pressure to specifically denounce white supremacist groups, which he did Monday.
"It shows you that the president, in a time of crisis, could not step up," said Vazquez, a 26-year-old video and content producer. "That is something we have to take note of, coming out tonight and showing that this is not OK."
Meanwhile, about two dozen Trump fans near The Plaza chanted "God bless President Trump" and carried American flags and signs with such sentiments as "now is not the time for divisiveness."
"We are here to show President Trump ... that he has a lot of fans here, even in liberal New York City, even in Manhattan," said Ariel Kohane, a 46-year-old member of a group called Jews for Trump.
He said he supported the president because of his views on national security, immigration and fighting radical Islamists and crime, among other issues. The anti-Trump protesters, to him, are "left-wing, liberal Communist snowflakes."
With supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators penned behind police barricades across the sidewalk, both sides yelled at each other, "Go home!"
A block south of Trump Tower, police officers with bullhorns confronted protesters pressing against and straining the barricades, telling the demonstrators to step back. Police said two people were arrested for disorderly conduct amid the protests but didn't say where or when.
Police stationed sand-filled sanitation trucks as barriers around Trump's signature skyscraper and layers of metal police barricades around the main entrance.
After Trump was elected, security around the tower ramped up dramatically, with barricades and checkpoints manned by scores of uniformed police officers. The security precautions have been lessened somewhat in Trump's absence but still have inconvenienced residents and business owners in the busy area, home to stores such as Tiffany and Louis Vuitton.
Trump, a native New Yorker, said Friday that he had stayed away since January because he realized the impact of the street closings and other aspects of a presidential visit.
"I would love to go to my home in Trump Tower, but it's very, very disruptive to do," he said.
And protesters, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, were not welcoming him.
Gabby Parra, a 17-year-old high school senior from Teaneck, New Jersey, said she did not have "the proper words to describe" her dislike for Trump. She said she feels the president dehumanizes minorities, noting that he launched his campaign by portraying Mexico as a source of rapists and murderers coming into the U.S.
The Rev. Jan Powell, a retired minister of the United Church of Christ, is troubled by Trump, too, and particularly resented his response to the violence in Virginia.
Still, she said, "I pray for him every day. We are both human beings."
Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
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