NEAR MAR-A-LAGO, A NO-GO ZONE
Residents across water from Trump tire of protests, media, motorcades
Life with a front-row-view of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate offers a peek at history, but also creates hassles for residents across the water in West Palm Beach.
South Flagler Drive, which parallels the Intracoastal Waterway, has long appealed to homeowners, bike riders, joggers, dog walkers, fishermen and others looking for a waterfront view.
The president’s frequent visits are also attracting a parade of demonstrators, swarms of media and other people angling for a spot to look across the water and see Mar-a-Lago’s tower and its billowing American flag.
Crowds periodically gather on private property near the intersection of South Flagler Drive and Southern Boulevard — adding to traffic and parking woes exacerbated by security for presidential motorcades that pass nearby.
“When Trump comes to town, everybody lines up
of Flagler and Southern, residents know Trump’s motorcade is soon to follow — and time is running out to avoid a presidential traffic jam.
“We know if we need to go somewhere, we need to go now,” said Ken Spratt, wholives at the Southbridge Condominiums at the intersection of Flagler and Southern.
Security roadblocks during the president’s travels to and fromthe airport, aswell as the Trump golf clubs he frequents, temporarily bring traffic to a stop on Southern Boulevard and other roads on the route near Mar-a-Lago.
During presidential visits, that intersection on the west side of the bridge that leads to Palm Beach becomes a magnet for Trump protesters and supporters alike to wave signs and chant within sight of Mar-a-Lago.
In addition to making a lot of noise, the crowds have been trampling grass, occupying resident-only spaces in condominium parking lots and leaving trash cans brimming with protest signs, water bottles and other demonstration discards.
On Saturday, nearly 700 anti-Trump protesters marched along Flagler Drive and over the Southern Boulevard bridge into Palm Beach.
During Trump’s summit with the president of China at Mar-a-Lago on April 6 and 7, protesters targeting the Chinese leader aswell as his red-shirt-wearing supporters flocked to the intersection of Flagler Drive and Southern Boulevard.
The crowd at times spilled over into the parking lot at the Southbridge Condominiums at the northwestern corner of the intersection.
Residents tried to chase away demonstrators who attempted to park there. West Palm Beach police stopped protesters in the parking lot from lighting a Chinese flag doused with lighter fluid, saying the attempted flag burning near the motorcade route posed a safety risk.
“It got loud. Bullhorns and all that kind of got old,” Spratt, a Trump supporter, said about demonstrations during the Chinese president’s meetings with Trump. “We got some laughs out of it too. ... How many people get the opportunity to see the president drive by on a regular basis?”
West Palm Beach police say there hasn’t been a big boost in arrests or parking there,” said Ben Brody, who handles leasing of property at one of the condominiums along Flagler Drive. “That’s a pretty decent spot [and] a couple years ago, it didn’t matter.”
Trump since taking office has made seven trips to his weekend White House in Palm Beach, most recently a four-day stay for the Easter holiday.
When bomb-sniffing dogs show up to check cars parked near the intersection tickets and other citations because of the spike in crowds attracted to South Flagler Drive, near Southern Boulevard.
Yet, “No Trespassing” signs and areas staked off with caution tape have started to pop up to keep demonstrators and others from taking over narrow, waterfront properties on the east side of Flagler Drive.
Members of the media have been setting up cameras, lights and other equipment on strips of land along the sea wall to broadcast with Trump’s Weekend White House in the background across thewater.
Much of that land is owned by condominiums and other homeowners on the other side of the road who use it to access docks and boats.
“They were parking on the grass, breaking the sprinklers and breaking electrical lines,” said Bobby Castellano, who owns a small apartment building on Flagler Drive, scheduled to be torn down and replaced with condominiums.
Castellano blamed the media for creating “most of the mess” on properties along Flagler Drive, while he said the demonstrators have been “no big deal.”
“It’s a couple hours and then they go away,” Castellano said about protesters. “It’s been amusing.”
Brody represents the owner of one of the larger plots of land between Flagler and the Intracoastal Waterway. He has put up a sign offering the property for rent — trying to tempt media outlets looking for a view directly across from Mar-a-Lago.
Brody said he has been getting “tons” of inquiries from media about using the land but is often greeted with “gasps” when he says they would have to pay. Most end up parking a little farther down the road, while others use the property without seeking permission, he said.
“They are calling, but I haven’t gotten any takers,” Brody said. “The media, notoriously, doesn’t want to spend for anything.”
Security personnel trail President Trump’s motorcade on April 5 as it heads down Southern Boulevard on its way to Mar-a-Lago amid demonstrators protesting a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Demonstrators protesting President Trump begin a 2.5 mile waterfront march south from the Trump Plaza condominiums on South Flagler Drive inWest Palm Beach toward Southern Boulevard on their way toward Mar-a-Lago in February.
Trump protesters gather on Southern Boulevard near Mar-a-Lago in February.