Thousands of anti-Trump protesters march to Mar-a-Lago
Chanting "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Trump has got to go,'' 3,000 protesters marched down Flagler Drive on Saturday in a loud but mostly orderly display of discontent that shattered the usual calm of the city's south end neighborhoods.
Several hundred protesters marched east over the Southern Boulevard bridge just after 7 p.m. and made it to within 25 yards of Mar-a-Lago, where Trump was attending a Red Cross charity ball.
At 8 p.m., a fireworks display for the charity lighted the sky above, casting a glow on the 300 protesters who gathered across the street from an armored security vehicle parked at Mar-a-Lago's south service entrance.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office officials videotaped the protesters and put up a temporary barrier to keep them on the south side of Southern Boulevard.
Guests of the Red Cross Ball trickled through the club entrance, where dozens of police in riot gear lined up along the hedges outside the club.
Organizers with bullhorns urged the the majority of protesters to stay west of the bridge, where many of them jammed against construction barricades at Southern and Flagler, chanting slogans and banging drums while passing motorists honked their horns in support.
Around 7:30 p.m., one West Palm Beach police officer could be heard talking about the possibility of using tear gas to disperse the crowd. But a little after 9 p.m., most of the protesters appeared to be heading home.
"I've lived here all my life and I've never seen anything like this,'' El Cid resident Dottie Anthony said as she stood in her neighbor's front lawn watching the noisy mile-long procession pass Valencia Drive.
Her neighbor, Theo Hayes, said she stopped worrying about damage from the protesters and decided to host a "Protest Watch Party,'' with a dozen friends sipping cocktails on the front lawn.
There was a heavy police presence throughout the marching route, with officers mostly trying to keep Flagler Drive clear from throngs of marchers that sporadically spilled onto the street.
About 30 Trump supporters gathered on Bingham Island just east of the bridge. And at different spots along the Flagler Drive route, handfuls of Trump supporters jeered from across the street, exchanging curse words and hand gestures.
One marcher tried to grab a Trump supporter's flag, but there was no immediate word of any altercations or arrests.
A police officer stationed in front of the Norton Art Museum estimated at least 3,000 people might've participated in the march, which started with a rally at 5 p.m, in front of the Trump Plaza condominiums.Palm Beach Police agreed, tweeting after 10 p.m.: Thank you to all that helped keep the peace. Final stats: estimated 3000 participants, 0 arrests, 1 peaceful night.
Protesters said it didn't matter whether Trump paid attention to the march from the comforts of his winter White House.
"I'm sure he will hear about it. He'll probably be tweeting about it around 3 o'clock in the morning,'' said Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters, who marched alongside Sheila Banks, the aunt of the late Corey Jones.
Organizers said it was more important that media covering Trump's Palm Beach visit were able to also cover the march and send its message around the world.
"We have a unique opportunity being that the president has a home here,'' said Star Fae of South Florida Activism, one of two groups that organized the march.
"We are a little bit more visible than a lot of the protests that have been going on around country so it's an opportunity for us to be visible to the nation and to make sure the president himself is aware of our sentiments.''
Residents along Flagler Drive, who leaned against the railings of high-rise condos and front-yard trees as the procession passed, certainly heard the marchers' message.
The march was loudest in El Cid and Southland Park because of the honking car horns from passing motorists.
"This is unreal,'' said Mike Graham as he stood in his driveway near Petty Park after 7 p.m. "Usually you don't hear a peep this time of the night.''
Some property owners hired private security guards to keep marchers off their property. And in response to concerns by residents, the city installed four portable toilets along the Flagler Drive route — two at Petty Park and two more at the east end of Monroe Drive.
"This is horrible," said one homeowner near Greenwood Drive who would not give his name. "They should know and respect that this is a quiet residential neighborhood. We are frightened."
Some Flagler Drive homeowners south of Greenwood Drive removed furniture from their private waterside docks. Other homeowners posted orange cones and chains across the end of their driveways.
Among the youngest marchers was Ryder Clark, who was 8 months old and carried by his parents Will and Michelle Clark. "We are fighting for his future,'' said Michelle Clark.
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church opened its parking lot for free to the marchers. But a few entrepreneurs cashed in on the march.
One man sold American flags for $20 each. Closer to Southern Boulevard, Clinton Casey, a Trump supporter, sold T shirts saying "March to Mar-a-Lago T Shirts (with a "no" slash across Trump's face) and "Free Melania.''