The Latest On Trump Protests Planned For The Weekend

The Latest On Trump Protests Planned For The Weekend

The route of a planned protest march Saturday from West Palm Beach to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago might be changed to accommodate a growing number of participants.

“I would anticipate that we will get a couple of thousand at least,’’ said Alex Newell Taylor, one of three organizers of March to Mar-a-Lago for Humanity.

“(Last Friday) we had zero people and now it’s in the thousands,’’ she said, referring to the group’s Facebook page that shows 1,600 attending and 5,000 interested in attending. “It is changing very quickly.’’

For now, the route is scheduled to start at Trump Plaza on Flagler Drive at 5 p.m. and continue south to Southern Boulevard, where the protesters will travel across the Southern Boulevard Bridge to Bingham Island, a small patch of land just west of Mar-a-Lago.

The group will then perform a “show of light” with glowsticks and flashlights before watching fireworks that culminate over Mar-a-Lago at a Red Cross charity ball, which Trump is expected to attend. The march will end by 9 p.m.

But there are concerns about narrow sidewalks along parts of Flagler Drive near El Cid and Southland Park, where it becomes Washington Road. Another issue is construction at the intersection of Flagler and Southern Boulevard.

Participants are expected to come from as far as Pensacola and Tampa. They might not march along the entire route, meaning they could park on neighborhood streets near the route.

Taylor said participants should check the Facebook page for updates this week. Organizers today and earlier this week have met or spoken with police leaders in Palm Beach and West Palm Beach.

“We are in constant communication with them because this thing is growing faster than anybody thought it would, but it changes the logistics of what’s possible and what’s not possible,’’ said Taylor, who organized 27,000 South Florida participants in the Washington, D.C. march last month.

She said there will be volunteer marshals to help keep the marchers off the streets and volunteer attorneys serving as “legal observers” to intervene in case of altercations.

The route could include pro-Trump supporters, too. A tweet from Trump Street team FL called for #StandWithTrump on Southern Boulevard at 4 p.m. Saturday.

What’s not expected to change is the ending spot on Bingham Island, less than a quarter-mile from Mar-a-Lago. Protesters plan to occupy the same piece of land on the north side of the road where television trucks have parked.

“We are going to try to create as much space for them as long as they don’t block the roadways,’’ said Palm Beach Public Safety Director Kirk Blouin.

“That roadway is one of our main arteries to get someone to a hospital. That roadway needs to be open. There’s not enough room to hold hundreds of people. We will accommodate as many as we can. If they start to spill onto the roadway, they will be given the order to disperse.’’

The town Wednesday posted a traffic alert warning residents of possible congestion Saturday on the Southern Boulevard Causeway from 5 p.m. to midnight and urging them to take alternate routes.

Blouin said he is encouraged that protesters have reached out to the police for input. But he isn’t ruling out the chance of some participants, possibly from anarchist groups, refusing to protest peacefully.

“There are some groups that will be participating that might try to be disruptive and aren’t exactly willing to work with law enforcement,’’ he said, declining to identify those potential groups.

“Most of the people we have spoken to, they are very reasonable and they want to get their message out. We are concerned about the few knuckleheads that want to create a chaotic atmosphere.’’

Police “are not going to tolerate that behavior,’’ he said.

Ryan Hartman, a self-described anarchist from Lake Worth, said he plans to attend the march. He said he expects it to be large but peaceful.

“Breaking things takes away from that. I don’t think doing that in front of where the president is staying is a very smart move at all,’’ he said. “My friends who are anarchists will go to that protest and hold signs and chant.’’

West Palm Beach police Sgt. Dave Lefont said he expects a peaceful march, noting there were no incidents at previous local protests, including the Women’s March on Jan. 21, which attracted 7,000 people downtown.

“We don’t anticipate any issues at all,’’ he said.


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Dated: February 2nd 2017
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