Michelle Seewer knew that, no matter what, she would find a way to be in Washington, D.C., to watch Donald Trump officially become president of the United States.
“I want to watch him be sworn into office,” the 35-year-old Palmetto resident said. “I want to see what happens. There is so much debate over what is going to happen and how things are going to go down that I want to be there for that piece of history.”
Seewer and her husband, Charles, have supported Trump from the beginning. So when Trump was elected the 45th president Nov. 8, the couple knew they had to get to the nation’s capital for the inauguration.
The Seewers entered to win tickets through U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s office and, right around Christmas, they found out they had won.
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“I was really excited,” Michelle Seewer said. “I planned on going whether we got tickets or not. I’ve never heard of anyone getting to win those.”
Wednesday morning, the Seewers began their drive to Washington, where they will pick up the tickets from Buchanan’s office on Thursday. This will also be the Seewers’ first time seeing all the monuments and museums in D.C.
“I think it is going to be phenomenal,” Michelle Seewer said. “I’m excited to see what someone who’s not really political will do with the country. To me, it’s once in a lifetime.”
The Seewers are just some of the Manatee County residents headed to Washington this weekend for either the inauguration on Friday or the Women’s March on Saturday.
On Friday afternoon, 65-year-old Helen Grove, who lives in Cortez, will be boarding a bus leaving from the parking lot of the DeSoto Square mall in Bradenton, to be in D.C. for Saturday’s march.
“I think this is a time in our country’s political life when it’s critically important for every citizen to register his or her beliefs and aspirations for our country, and this is one way of doing it for me,” she said. “I’m a grandma, and I think some of what the November election is ushering in presents a real threat to my grandchildren’s lives.”
Grove, along with the others on the Rally charted bus, will ride through the night to arrive Saturday morning in Washington, where they will march before leaving Saturday night to return to Bradenton by Sunday afternoon. But the long trip is “absolutely worth it” for Grove.
“I hope we will make a very loud statement by virtue of the sheer number of people, women and men, adults and children, who are traveling to Washington and participating in the march,” she said. “It is a way of saying loudly to elected officials we are watching and we have expectations. We have leadership coming in at the federal level that, in my view, does not represent all the people in the country.”
D.C. bound for the inauguration
Donna Hayes was confident that Trump would win the 2016 election. So much so that the former Manatee County commissioner has had her reservations for this weekend’s inauguration for more than a year.
“There was no time I gave up on Donald Trump,” said Hayes, who worked on the Trump campaign for 1 1/2 years as the Manatee County chairwoman.
When Trump takes the oath of office on Friday, Hayes said it’s going to be a very emotional moment.
“It has been a really tough campaign,” said Hayes, who leaves for D.C. early Thursday. “It has been very exciting. There were a lot of undue attacks on Mr. Trump. It took a lot of fight and a lot of determination to counteract.”
For state Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, Friday’s inauguration is a culmination of everything he’s worked toward since 2015 when he joined the campaign.
“I’m going just to be part of this historical moment where the movement Donald Trump created continues when he is sworn in,” said Gruters, who was Trump’s campaign co-chairman in Florida. “Friday’s event is just going to be spectacular, and I think it’s going to bring renewed optimism to the country.”
Trump is such a historic figure, Gruters said.
“I think he’s going to transform America in a way that’s going to make a lot of people happy,” he said. “I think when looking back at this day it will be very important in the history of the country.”
For the Seewers, the inauguration will be their first time seeing Trump in person.
I was excited to be able to do something that is amazing in our lifetime to participate in something that could change our lives forever.
Charles Seewer, Palmetto resident
“I was excited to be able to do something that is amazing in our lifetime to participate in something that could change our lives forever,” said 34-year-old Charles Seewer, who is in the Florida National Guard. “I believe it’s going to be for the better and I want to be there when it happens.”
It is time for the country to become united behind Trump, Hayes said.
“Once Mr. Trump becomes President Trump and he is able to get some things done, people are going to rally around him and be very impressed, because Donald Trump — whenever he says he is going to do something, he is going to do it,” she said. “It is going to be a very emotional moment for me to see all of our work come together and see him become president of the United States.”
Local law enforcement officers from Manatee County will be working in Washington for Friday’s inauguration, including members of Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Palmetto Police Department.
Palmetto Police Department Chief Scott Tyler said the department, which has helped in the past several inaugurations, has four officers traveling to the nation’s capital.
“It’s a request from the authorities up there,” Tyler said. “They have tremendous staffing needs. It’s a way of local agencies to participate in a big event.”
The trip is fully reimbursed by D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, according to Dave Bristow, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
“It is just a mutual-aid request,” he said, adding that it’s actually coordinated before the election.
D.C. bound for the Women’s March
The 2016 election is the first time an election has brought 56-year-old Mary Onna Bode to her “emotional knees.”
“I feel like we went backwards rather than forward,” the Bradenton resident said. “What we see this year is more a bigotry and hatred and anger like we’ve never seen before.”
Bode, along with other Manatee County residents, will be participating in Saturday’s Women’s March.
“I feel it’s important that we as women come together as a group to empower each other and empower our nation toward progression and solidarity toward equal opportunity for all,” she said.
According to the Women’s March website, the march “will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human’s rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
As CEO of the Women’s Resource Center, which is dedicated to empowering women, Ashley Brown said she felt compelled to attend Saturday’s march.
“This march is for women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights,” Brown said. “I also like the history tied to women gathering around inaugurations to support issues that are important to women and their families.”
I feel like we went backwards rather than forward.
Mary Onna Bode, Bradenton resident
By participating in Saturday’s march, 49-year-old Bradenton resident Deborah Coupland-Porter said she is hoping they send a message to Congress that women’s rights are important.
“We aren’t just going to be ignored,” she said. “We seem so advanced in certain ways, but so backwards compared to the rest of the world in others.”
With this being the first inauguration weekend Bode will be in D.C., she said she believes Trump being elected as president is “the symptom of something much deeper going on in our country.”
“I want to be part of positive progression forward not backward,” she said. “We all have commonalities, and I want to focus on those commonalities of all people, rather than bringing more of a division because different politics. I think it is important that we come together, and the Women’s March is the greatest and best way to do that.”
While some say Saturday’s march is a protest march against Trump, Grove said she doesn’t think of it that way.
“I believe it is an opportunity for not only women, but men; not only white women and men, but people of all colors and backgrounds and sexual orientation to come together, that we want more and we want different from our government, and we are going to be watchful and we are going to be vocal,” she said. “It’s not all about Trump.”
Grove anticipates that there will be some who voted for Trump participating in Saturday’s march, as well.
“They still believe that our government needs to function differently and represent all people,” she said. “This is just a time where there is great dismay among Democrats and Republicans that the country is so polarized. They believe that has to change.”
This election was a terrible time in the country, Grove said.
“I can’t imagine a more negative, polarizing, prejudiced bias discussion about the state of the country than we saw in this campaign and election season,” she said. “We simply need to go forward in a more positive and constructive way.”