WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Saturday evening march will begin at Trump Plaza, a high-rise apartment building. President Trump actually hasn’t owned the place since 1991. Fine. It still has the name. It’s a good place to start.
From there, the marchers will head south, walking along the Intracoastal Waterway that separates West Palm Beach from ritzy Palm Beach island. They’ll stop, on police orders, when they reach the bridge.
And then, the plan is to wave signs and glowsticks. The hope is that they’ll 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, then he’ll know that his critics have followed him home.
“He is a part-time resident here, and we want to make sure people know his values are not our values,“ said Alex Newell Taylor, 34, an organizer of Saturday’s march. She said thousands are expected.
Protestors and LGBT activists march toward the White House after rallying outside of Trump International Hotel Friday in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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 — cancelled a trip to visit Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, where local groups had planned to protest his appearance; the White House said the protests were not the reason.
And, around the business empire that Trump still owns, his critics treat each location as an avatar for the president.
[Trump doesn’t like dissent — inside or outside the government]
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.
Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., property, is being targeted by protesters this weekend. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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.
Protest “gets under his skin,” said Michael Skolnik, a filmmaker and prominent liberal organizer in New York, who supports this sort of protest. 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 his later days, George W. Bush faced protests outside his Texas ranch, from people opposed to the Iraq War. On his travels, President Obama 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 inauguration, when more than 1 million marched in “Women’s Marches” in Washington and around the country and globe. It continued the following 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.
[Trump’s rallying cry: fear itself]
It continued this past week, as the administration was consumed by the chaos that the loosely drafted immigration order set off. In New York City, for instance, hundreds of bodega markets owned by Yemeni Americans closed to protest the same order on Thursday.
“You know how Yellowstone National Park is built on one of the world’s biggest volcanos?” 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 himself has dismissed these protests — operating on the theory that he doesn’t need these protestors to like him and that their anger might actually help him by pushing others closer to Trump. 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 protestors 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 wrote, though there is no evidence that any significant number of demonstrators are being paid.
Saturday night’s protest near Mar-a-Lago will be a test of what’s next: on a Saturday night, with no election in sight, can organizers raise a crowd merely to haunt Trump from across the water?
The organizers think so. They expect thousands..
“The traditional way of looking at these Facebook events is to look at the number of RSVPs and cut it in half,” Newell Taylor said. But the last few weeks have shown that anti- Trump events are different, she said. They always get bigger than you expect. “With this Trump situation, it’s, ‘Take the number of RSVPs, and double it.’”
Around the country, other groups have directed their unhappiness toward Trump at his business empire, which he still effectively owns, though Trump says he’s given over management to his executives and two eldest 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 pissed 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 report for vandalism — somebody crossed out “Trump” on the sign with lipstick, and wrote a Spanish swear word instead.
Others were more organized about their efforts.
One group, called “Grab Your Wallet,” was started in October after The Washington Post obtained a 2005 video in which Trump bragged about groping women during a taping of “Access Hollywood.”
Shannon Coulter, who helps lead the group, said she had a visceral reaction after that when she encountered Ivanka Trump-branded 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 — ranging from the Trump Organization’s own hotels and golf courses to business that carry Ivanka Trump merchandise to businesses whose leaders supported Trump during the election.
Coulter said her Facebook group has more than 11,000 people connected to it. What they want, she said, was 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 he chief executive of Uber, the ride-share 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 up 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 founder of Creative Majority PAC. He also runs Revolution Messaging, the Washington firm that actually set up the system.
Their system connects callers to one of 30 Trump business phone numbers. It could be a hotel front desk. It could be a restaurant. Goodstein says 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 has been blocked by 51 different Trump Organization phone numbers. He said it’s having the desired effect, 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 had not interfered with the business. And even if they did, he said, Trump would not know about it because 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.”
Fahrenthold reported from Washington. Sandhya Somashekhar and Wesley Lowery in Washington and Bill Dauber in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., also contributed to this report.