The Dalai Lama is in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend, where he is expected to speak to thousands of people during appearances at a university, a baseball stadium, and a theater.

The Tibetan spiritual leader greeted supporters Saturday outside a downtown hotel at the start of his visit to the United States.

WBMA-TV aired video of the Dalai Lama greeting supporters, who wore white scarves in hopes that he would bless them. Tibetan monks prepared sacred art in honor of the visit.

The visit also drew about 250 protesters downtown, reported. They say the Dalai Lama has persecuted people and caused them to be mistreated and ostracized in Tibetan exile communities.

On Saturday, he participated in an event hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

On Sunday, the Dalai Lama will participate in an interfaith event at the Alabama Theater, followed by a public talk at the city’s minor league baseball stadium.

Birmingham is the first stop during a US visit that includes appearances in Boston and New York.