Usually known as a scenic and tranquil stretch of oceanfront mansions and palm trees, South Ocean Boulevard took on a far different look Saturday when it was briefly taken over by hundreds of feisty marchers protesting President Donald Trump’s first year in office.
Holding colorful signs and yelling into bullhorns with chants like “Hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Trump has got to go,’’ the procession, nearly a half-mile long, filled the boulevard’s northbound lane for about 90 minutes as it moved south toward Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s winter White House.
The crowd, estimated by police at between 700 and 800, left the clock tower at Worth Avenue at 12:45 p.m. with a goal of reaching Mar-a-Lago’s front gates, nearly 2 miles away.
But the marchers — some in wheelchairs, some with leashed dogs and others pushing baby strollers — were turned back just north of a police barricade at South County Road, where 30 officers in riot gear stood at attention.
As a precaution, police shut down both lanes to vehicular traffic while marchers made their way south and then returned to the Worth Avenue clock tower around 2 p.m., passing curious residents peaking out of mansion windows along the way.
No arrests or injuries were reported from the mostly well-behaved crowd, many of whom went out of their way to thank police officers who were stationed at side streets along the route.
But as the marchers were returning, a new procession of demonstrators showed up – nine southbound cars full of Trump supporters, beeping their horns, shouting, “Your Democratic Party’s going down,” through bullhorns, and prompting a cascade of boos from the protesters massed on the oceanfront sidewalk.
Saturday’s march was one of dozens of demonstrations around the country protesting Trump’s first year in office. However, the Palm Beach march was not billed as a Women’s March, as many around the nation were. On Sunday, a large rally associated with the Women’s March is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.
Angela Ray and her 14-year-daughter, Daylen, both visiting from Traverse City, Mich., said they purposely planned their vacation in Palm Beach so they could participate in Saturday’s demonstration, which offered them a chance to voice their disgust with Trump as close as they could to his winter Mar-a-Lago home.
“Honestly, I am marching for the future of my daughter and her generation,’’ Angela said. “I’m embarrassed for my country, that we would allow that man to get elected.’’
Marilyn Walk of Singer Island said, “Not to march, to not stand up and speak, is complicit.’’
Organizers considered the march a success, noting the large turnout and media coverage including a news crew from the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get to Mar-a-Lago, but that’s OK,’’ said Mark Offerman, an organizer. “We showed that Donald J. Trump has zero mandate, not in his home turf, not in this state, not in this country and certainly not on the world stage.’’
But also on Saturday, about 25 Trump supporters gathered about 4 miles away from the protesters in their usual spot near the intersection of Flagler Drive and Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach. They waved Trump flags, American flags, an Israel flag and a Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flag and carried signs that included “In God We Trust Pres. Trump!” and “Trump Strong.”
Wearing a matching red “Make America Great Again” hat and shirt and carrying a sign that said “U.S.A. For Trump Movement,” Manuel Tamargo of Miami said, “He’s the best we have, the best ever. There hasn’t been a president like him and I don’t think there ever will be…I’m supporting Trump all over the United States and all over the world.”
The supporters were in the spot where they usually greet the president as his motorcade drives to Mar-a-Lago from Palm Beach International Airport, but this weekend Trump decided to stay in Washington because of the federal government shutdown, a topic raised on the island by many protesters.
“The irony of it is on the anniversary of his inauguration, the government is shut down,’’ said Eileen Maloof, a marcher from West Palm Beach.
The protest crowd started massing by the Palm Beach clock tower at 10 a.m. By noon, police stretched yellow tape along the sidewalk to keep marchers from spilling onto the busy road where cars turn onto Worth Avenue.
“I want decency, civility and respect returned,” said Arlene Ustin, 74, a Delray Beach woman who showed up at 10:30 a.m. “Those are values that keep a democracy vibrant.”
On the other side of the clock tower, Bianca Chang-Gentile held up a black sign. It read: “Cuban women against Trump because we’ve seen this before!”
“(Trump) scares the daylights out of me,” she said. “Never in my life did I think I’d have a president that speaks and acts the way he does.”
Chang-Gentile, a 54-year-old Florida resident, said she moved to the U.S. from Cuba in 1971. She said her mother was a political activist in Cuba during the 1960s, where Chang-Gentile said she was jailed and tortured.
“The way (Trump) is running the country now, the way he talks is like a communist,” Chang Gentile said. “So this means a lot to me.”
As the protesters marched, a woman in the mansion once owned by the late musician John Lennon opened a large window to take photos. At another mansion, two Hispanic women who said they worked as housekeepers ran to the front gate to wave to the marchers.
“We’re going to show Trump what democracy looks like. We are here because Trump has flim-flammed the people. He has Kellyanne-conned his way into office,” said co-organizer Barry Singer, playing off the name of Trump staffer Kellyanne Conway.
When the marchers reached the police barricade roughly a mile north of Mar-a-Lago, some of them yelled their dissatisfaction at the line of helmeted officers standing across both lanes of the road.
“I am outraged that we have to stop here and these guys in riot gear are there to protect people attending the $100,000-a-plate dinner,” said Judy Katten of Palm Beach, referring to a charity dinner Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago.
“Who are they afraid of? Little old ladies with gray hair like me?” asked Lindsay Vissett.
After protesters lingered for a few minutes, one officer grabbed a megaphone. “Ladies and gentleman,” he said, “per the agreement with your organizers, it is now time to turn around and head back.”
Phoebe Crane, visiting Wellington from Indiana, where her son and his wife have just adopted a 5-year-old from Haiti. The photos on her sign are from the day her new grandson left the orphanage. He’s wearing a birthday hat in one — the first party he ever had, she said.
“I was sickened,” Crane said of Trump’s recent vulgar comments about Haiti and other countries. “I’m just so saddened, so embarrassed by this man. This is beyond politics.”
Rande Scarbrough, a retired high school teacher from Stuart, carried a sign showing a Nazi swastika across Trump’s face, which he says symbolizes his view of many of the president’s policies.
“Trump has the mind of a fascist. I am glad my father is not alive to see this. He fought the Nazis for three years all over Europe (in World War II). He would not be happy with what is in the White House,’’ said Scarbrough, 71, who described Trump as a “fascist.”
Asked if he thought the demonstrators accomplished anything with the march, Scarbrough said, “People need to take their anger and their despair and turn it into action, to let the public know we’re knowing going to accept this.”
The Palm Beach Police Department had help Saturday from West Palm Beach police officers.
“It all worked out really well,” said Michael Ogrodnick, a Palm Beach police spokesman.
Post staff writer George Bennett and Ian Cohen of the Palm Beach Daily News contributed to this story.