1,000 chanting protesters aim directly at Trump’s wallet
west palm beach, fla. — The Saturday evening march began at Trump Plaza, a high-rise apartment building President Trump hasn’t actually owned since 1991. Fine. It still has the name. It was a good place to start.
From there, the marchers headed south, walking along the Intracoastal Waterway that separates West Palm Beach from ritzy Palm Beach island. They stopped shortly after 7 p.m. when they reached the bridge across from Mar-a-Lago.
They brought signs and glow sticks to wave, hoping they would be visible across the dark water and the great green lawn of the club from up in the private apartment that is now the “winter White House.”
If Trump sees those green lights, he’ll know that his critics have followed him home.
“He likes to think that everybody loves him. We’re showing him that we don’t,” said Lisa Wright, 53, an IT consultant from Broward County who was marching along the waterway Saturday night.
Around 7:30 p.m., about 200 of the 1,200 marchers made it across the bridge to the back gates of Mar-a-Lago.
Across the street, a few dozen pro-Trump people waved American flags, but the spectacle was the protesters, beating drums, singing and chanting.
This is the reality of Trump’s honeymoon-free presidency.
Having sought to create unprecedented disruption in Washington, his critics will now seek to bring unprecedented disruption to his life as president — including demonstrations that follow him when he travels and protests that will dog his businesses even when he doesn’t.
Already this week, Trump — the most unpopular new president in modern times — canceled a trip to the Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee, where local groups had planned to protest his appearance; the White House said the protests were not the reason for the cancellation.
And, around the business empire that Trump still owns, his critics treat each location as an avatar for the president.
There have been small gestures of pique: lipstick graffiti on the sign at Trump’s golf course in Los Angeles; and a plan for a mass mooning of his hotel in Chicago. There have also been more organized efforts to take time and money away from family businesses — a boycott of stores selling Ivanka Trump’s clothes and a campaign to flood Trump businesses with calls demanding that the president divest from his holdings.
For Trump’s opponents, these demonstrations are a way to change his behavior by denting the president’s own self-image as a popular man with a successful business.
The risk, for them, is that protests meant to shame Trump will consume energy that could be used to beat him by winning elections and swaying votes in Congress.
A protest “gets under his skin,” said Michael Skolnik, a filmmaker and prominent liberal organizer in New York who supports this sort of demonstration. He said he hoped that, somehow, getting under the president’s skin might turn out to be a good long-term political strategy.
“What if Trump can’t come out of bed for four days? That could happen,” Skolnik said.
In the later days of his presidency, George W. Bush faced protests outside his Texas ranch from people opposed to the Iraq War. During President Barack Obama’s travels, he sometimes faced demonstrations from liberals pushing him to do more on immigration or the environment.
But neither one faced organized protest movements at the start of their presidency, condemning the president across multiple policy areas. Trump does.
It began the day after his inau- guration, when more than 1 million people marched in Women’s Marches in Washington, across the country and around the globe. It continued the next weekend, when thousands of people gathered at airports to protest Trump’s executive order on immigration, which barred refugees and all visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.
It continued this past week as the administration was consumed by the chaos that the entry ban set off.
In New York City, for instance, hundreds of bodega markets owned by Yemeni Americans closed Thursday to protest the same ban.
“You know how Yellowstone National Park is built on one of the world’s biggest volcanoes?” said Ben Wikler, the Washington director for MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group. “It feels like that just exploded in terms of grassroots energy.”
Trump has dismissed these protests — operating on the theory that he doesn’t need these protesters to like him and that their anger might help him by pushing others closer to him. On Twitter, for instance, the president cast the Women’s March as a massive outpouring of sour grapes.
“Was under the impression that we just had an election!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Why didn’t these people vote?”
On Friday — after a pair of violent protests on college campuses where conservative provocateurs were invited to talk — Trump seemed to lump these small groups of unruly protesters in with the rest of his critics from the other events.
“Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” he said, although there is no evidence that any significant number of demonstrators are being paid.
Across the country, other groups have directed their unhappiness toward Trump at his business empire, which he still effectively owns, although Trump says he has shifted the management to his executives and adult sons.
“I am scoping it out right now,” said a woman snapping photos of the sign outside Trump’s golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., near Los Angeles. She gave her name only as “Diane” and said she was scouting the site for a protest.
“People are p----- and feel they can’t do anything, but we want to hit him where it hurts,” she said. “I don’t think he wants people near his businesses. We want to hit him where it hurts most — his money.” On an earlier day, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department took a vandalism report — somebody crossed out “Trump” on the sign with lipstick and wrote a Spanish swear word there.
Others were more organized about their efforts.
One group, Grab Your Wallet, was started in October after The Washington Post obtained a 2005 video of a taping of “Access Hollywood” in which Trump bragged about groping women.
Shannon Coulter, who helps lead the group, said she had a visceral reaction after that when she encountered Ivanka Trumpbranded items while shopping. Ivanka Trump had continued to campaign for her father after the tape’s release.
“I kind of had [Trump’s] words ringing in my ears,” she said. She helped launch a boycott campaign, which has grown to include more than 60 companies — including the Trump Organization’s own hotels and golf courses, business that carry Ivanka Trump merchandise and businesses whose leaders supported Trump during the election.
Coulter said her Facebook group has thousands of people connected to it. What they want, she said, is to “shop the stores we love with a clear conscience and without any bad memories.”
Now, three businesses that her group targeted for boycotts have severed or loosened their connections to the Trumps. Nordstrom said it would stop selling Ivanka Trump merchandise, Nieman Marcus stopped selling her jewelry on its website and the chief executive of Uber, the ridehailing company, pulled out of Trump’s business advisory council.
Another campaign offers Trump’s critics a more direct — but possibly less productive — way to respond to Trump. It lets them call one of his companies at random and complain to whomever answers the phone.
“Until he divests, these [businesses] are embassies of the White House,” said Scott Goodstein, the co-founder of Creative Majority PAC. He also runs Revolution Messaging, the Washington firm that set up the system.
The system connects callers to one of 30 Trump business phone numbers. It could be a hotel front desk. It could be a restaurant. Goodstein said they encourage callers to “have fun with it.” For instance, if a restaurant employee offers to help make a reservation, one might say: “I have a reservation — that Donald Trump is not taking this job seriously.”
Since this effort started in December, the PAC says it has facilitated 33,000 phone calls and been blocked by 51 Trump Organization phone numbers. He said it’s having the desired effect by squeezing Trump’s business in a way that would squeeze the man himself.
“It’s definitely having an effect on Trump’s businesses,” Goodstein said. “And I’m sure that President Trump will know that this act of dissension is taking place.”
But Alan Garten, chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, said in a telephone interview that the phone calls have not interfered with the business. And even if they did, he said, Trump would not know about it because he has resigned from his management roles.
“There’s a complete separation,” Garten said. “He may read [about] it in the newspaper, that I don’t know.”
In Palm Beach, Fla., Saturday, anti-Trump protesters carry a flagdraped coffin said to symbolize the death of democracy.