NEAR MAR-A-LAGO, A NO-GO ZONE

Res­i­dents across wa­ter from Trump tire of protests, me­dia, mo­tor­cades

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Andy Reid Staff writer

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.”

PHO­TOS BY JIM RASSOL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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.

JIM RASSOL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Trump protesters gather on South­ern Boule­vard near Mar-a-Lago in Fe­bru­ary.

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