The town of Palm Beach has long been the kind of place where you go to get away from traffic jams and sign-waving socialists. Tall hedges, guarded gates, and a rigid social code make it easy for the town’s residents (average per capita income: $109,219 per year) to avoid engaging with concepts like class consciousness and the redistribution of wealth.
All that is about to change with Donald Trump’s presidency. Not only will residents start to see a whole lot more cars when Trump’s in town courtesy of the Secret Service and gawkers, but Mar-a-Lago, the membership-only club owned by Trump which also serves as his Florida home, will attract the kind of radical leftist dissent they moved to Palm Beach to avoid.
It's already started. This past Saturday night, a group of roughly 30 anti-Trump demonstrators met in downtown West Palm Beach and crossed the causeway to the barrier island, then marched to Mar-a-Lago while waving banners that said “REVOLT” and chanting slogans like “No Donald Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” and “All your money, all your lies, we will never compromise.” The protest was organized by the Fellow Travelers Community Action Group, which describes itself as “a radical Marxist-Leninist organization operating in Palm Beach County, with a focus on Lake Worth.”
“We were there not only rallying against Trump and against the class he represents, but also the two-party system that gave us Trump,” Henry Calway, the event’s organizer, explains. “[The protest is] a rejection of Trump himself, his right wing populism, and the racist, sexist, you-name-it undertones of his message.”
Palm Beach officials have apparently accepted that this is the new reality: Calway says that while he didn’t ask permission or apply for a permit to hold the protest, the Palm Beach Police Department ended up getting wind of the event through Facebook and provided an official escort for the group. Residents may take a little longer to adjust: Some passing drivers spat on the protestors, gave them the finger, and screamed at them, making comments like, “Go away!” and “Get a job!”
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Otherwise, though, things went smoothly, with no major confrontations or arrests. Prior to the demonstration, some attendees had reported receiving threatening messages from a Facebook page titled “So Florida ROCK & ROLL 4 TRUMP,” which claimed there would be “500 bikers and veterans” opposing their protest. That never materialized.
Neither did Trump himself. He was in New Jersey at the time, holding a closed-door meeting with Mitt Romney and angrily tweeting that the cast of the musical Hamilton should apologize to Vice President-elect Mike Pence — which may have been a ploy to distract people from the fact that he’d settled a lawsuit against Trump University for $25 million the day before.
But the protest got Palm Beach’s attention, which Calway sees as a victory.
“We expected to get some pushback because the residents there are the exact people who benefit from the system [that] we were there protesting,” he says. “So for them to be yelling at us, I see that as a success.”