ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Opponents of President Donald Trump’s reelection announcement Tuesday in Florida are launching their protests at a nearby gay bar where a mariachi band and a drag queen will perform in what organizers say will be a public rebuttal to the president’s policies.
Organizers of the “Win With Love Rally” said Trump’s announcement in Orlando on Tuesday night is an affront to a city with a visible gay community and a large Puerto Rican population. Orlando is at the center of the Interstate 4 corridor, stretching from Tampa to Daytona Beach, which is considered the swingiest part of the nation’s largest swing state.
Opponents blame the Republican president for holding up disaster aid to Puerto Rico over a feud with Democratic leaders on the island. The Trump administration also has moved to revoke newly won health care protections for transgender people, restrict their presence in the military , and withdraw federal guidance that trans students should be able to use bathrooms of their choice.
Hours before the Trump rally was scheduled to begin, two attorneys held a news conference with immigrants who said they worked for Trump-owned properties while living in the country illegally, WFTV reported. The attorneys denounced the president’s immigration policies and his most recent pledge to begin deporting millions of immigrants.
The president’s reelection announcement comes a week after the third anniversary of the massacre of 49 people at the gay Pulse club, a turning point for Orlando community leaders in embracing ideas of diversity and tolerance, said Ida Eskamani, a protest organizer. The club closed after the shooting, and a planned memorial is in development on the site.
“Orlando is such a bastion of hope and love and solidarity of marginalized people since Pulse and we have embraced that identity of who we are as a community,” Eskamani said. “We want to show the country that Trump’s brand of politics doesn’t work along the I-4 corridor. We are ready to win with love.”
The chairman of the local Republican Party said Trump is fighting for all Americans.
“For them to say Donald Trump doesn’t like gay people is wrong. For them to say Donald Trump doesn’t like Hispanics is wrong,” said Charles Hart, chairman of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee.
Orlando’s hometown newspaper said Tuesday in an editorial that it won’t endorse Trump.
“Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent,” the Orlando Sentinel wrote. “Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.”
The editorial went on to say that it has had “enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.”
Organizers of the Trump announcement on Tuesday were hosting an all-day festival — dubbed “45 Fest” — outside the Amway Center where the president was scheduled to speak Tuesday night. By early Monday, some supporters had lined up a day and a half in advance, pitching tents and stringing up hammocks outside the arena.
Others planned to be in Orlando to highlight Trump’s track record. An attorney who said he represented dozens of former illegal workers at Trump properties planned a news conference with seven of the workers, along with union members to show “Trump’s hypocrisy toward immigrants and his economic policies that hurt all workers,” according to a statement.
Protest organizers also were promising an appearance by the “Baby Trump” blimp at the bar after they raised money to bring it from south Florida. However, the blimp will stay at the bar, located about three blocks from the arena, due to presidential airspace restrictions, Eskamani said.
Hours before the Trump rally, Unite Here!, a labor union representing hospitality workers, held a news conference with migrant workers who said they were employed at Trump-owned properties while they were living in the country illegally, WFTV reported.
“This is the one story the administration doesn’t talk about: the undocumented immigrants who worked for Donald Trump in his house for many, many years,” the station quoted immigration attorney Anibal Romero as saying. “These are the same people he vilifies.”
Sandra Diaz, an immigrant who said she worked at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, said she and others came to the news conference to declare that “we aren’t criminals.”
“We are honorable people,” she said, speaking through a translator. “We were … working in his house, serving them. And this is something that everybody needs to know.”