About 100 protesters taking aim at President Donald Trump stormed the streets of downtown West Palm Beach on Saturday night in a fairly tense display, halting traffic and surprising patrons.
The group, marching to mark the anniversary of a local Trump protest held the same day a year ago, was a fraction of the size of that demonstration, which drew hundreds to West Palm Beach.
But the organizers of Saturday’s demonstration say the energy and setting were more far-reaching than past protests.
“I think we had more visibility than we’ve had in the past,” said Star Fae, a Lake Worth activist who organized the march a year ago.
Saturday’s mile-long march took protesters, donning anti-Trump T-shirts and holding signs with colorful prints and phrases, from Trump Plaza, a two tower condominium complex on Flagler Drive that isn’t actually owned by the president, to Clematis Street, where onlookers at packed restaurants and bars were seen pulling out cellphones to record the display.
“Even though we had a much smaller group, the energy is much stronger than this time last year,” Fae said.
The protesters opened with speeches about the Trump administration’s perceived assaults on marginalized groups: women, immigrants and transgender people.
West Palm Beach police directed traffic away from the marchers, who commanded the downtown streets for about an hour. That was not without discord though, as some officers ordered protesters to march on sidewalks.
They refused, and responded with the chant: “Whose streets? Our streets.”
A police SUV at one point hopped a street median to get around protesters who blocked its path.
The display was otherwise tame, and drew little opposition from passersby. One driver in a black pickup decked out with “Make America Great Again” flags, invoking Trump’s campaign slogan, drove past the protesters several times honking his horn.
Six protesters wore burgundy cloaks and white bonnets partially hiding their faces, an ensemble derived from the television series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” set in a totalitarian society where women are treated as property.
The costumed women referred to themselves as “The Handmaid’s Resistance” there to “fight the dystopian hell that we may become,”said one member from Jupiter who declined to give her name.
Their frustrations lie in the Trump administration’s “efforts to strip away any women’s rights,” said one of the handmaids, Ilean Dittrick, of West Palm Beach.
Some of those who marched a year ago returned Saturday, saying their frustrations had strengthened over time.
“Last year I was ready to give Trump a chance,” said Barry Imhoff, of West Palm Beach. “But I’m more horrified now than I could have imagined. His presidency is a knife in the moral heart of our nation.”
Fueling the irritation was Trump’s frequent visits to Palm Beach and his part-time home, Mar-a-Lago, between January and April of this year, causing traffic inconveniences and spurring protests.
“It was obscene the amount of time he spent here,” said Linda Montaquila, a Jupiter resident. “I’m a little surprised that I’m still here protesting. I believed he would be impeached by now.”
Unlike last year’s protest, marchers weren’t able to make their way to Bingham Island, a piece of land along the Southern Boulevard draw bridge frequented by media for its view of Mar-a-Lago.
Construction to replace the Southern Boulevard bridge has closed off access to the island.
Protesters were not fazed, however, by the change of course, as shouting their chants along Clematis Street gave them a larger audience than Bingham Island once did.
“Sometimes,” said Alex Newell Taylor, head of Women’s March West Palm Beach, “all people need is a shake to their senses.”