In Bradenton and Sarasota, several protestors gathered to express their opposition to a recent immigration ban and the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Outside the Manatee County Judicial Center Monday afternoon, a group of about 20 people and two dogs wearing signs, gathered to show their opposition to an immigration ban signed by President Donald Trump last week.
It includes a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen and the U.S. refugee program is suspended for 120 days, according to the Associated Press.
Monday’s protests in Bradenton and Sarasota, which came after a weekend of protests across the nation, were organized by Action Together Suncoast, the organization that held a women’s march in Sarasota the weekend following Trump’s inauguration. Some protesters who stood with the group in Bradenton on Monday also marched in the women’s march last weekend.
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Dianne Perry, founder of Action Together Suncoast, said the idea for Monday’s protests in front of Rep. Vern Buchanan’s offices in Sarasota and Bradenton came about last week.
Part of the group’s plan was to send a few protestors to Buchanan’s offices, said Nora Sinclair, an organizer with Action Together Suncoast.
Sinclair and Jenni Casale, another organizer, went inside to speak with Buchanan’s representatives in Bradenton and voice their opinion. When they returned to the other protesters, both said their concerns were heard and their contact information was taken.
In a statement from the congressman’s office, Gretchen Anderson, press secretary for Buchanan, said Trump’s moves on immigration are a matter of national security.
“Vern’s office is always open for people to come by and express their views, especially on such an important issue as public safety. Our government has no higher priority than protecting Americans from dangerous criminals and radical Islamic terrorists. Vern believes that if sanctuary cities blatantly ignore federal law, they shouldn’t be rewarded with taxpayer dollars,” the statement reads.
“We need to enforce the immigration laws on the books. The congressman also has consistently called for a halt in allowing Syrian refugees into the country. Intelligence officials have made clear that terrorists are leaving Syria disguised as refugees and carrying out attacks in the West. We need to stop accepting Syrian refugees as a matter of national security. Vern is hopeful the administration will swiftly resolve any issues involving individuals with green cards as well as military interpreters who bravely served alongside our troops,” the statement reads.
In Buchanan’s Sarasota office, a crowd of about 40 squeezed into the reception area. A spokesperson for Buchanan removed the press from the room, saying each protestor would have to meet individually with a Buchanan representative rather than voicing their concerns as a group if the media remained. The crowd could be heard clapping and questioning Buchanan’s representatives. At one point one protestor read aloud a tweet from Buchanan: “LONG OVERDUE: A freeze on Syrian refugees and a crackdown on sanctuary cities! Time to protect Americans.”
Anthony Barrese, the guest conductor of the Sarasota Opera was among the protestors. He said the newly-elected president reminds him of an operatic villain.
“Opera is full of oppressive dictators,” Barrese said. “But every opera is about love. No opera extolls the values of beating up immigrants.”
In Bradenton, after Sinclair and Casale returned outside, the group walked out to Manatee Avenue West where they waved at passersby and encouraged drivers to honk in support. The group of about 20 people stood near the road with signs and chanted “No wall no ban.”
Signs held by protesters read, “We stand with refugees,” “No fear, no hate, no wall, not my America,” but one couple - Gary and Rita Treammell, of Bradenton - also decked out their dogs with signs that read “Dogs for decency,” “No Muslim ban,” and “No wall.”
Kathy Flora brought along her 4-year-old grandson, Jackson Flora and also went to speak with Buchanan’s office. But she wanted to bring her grandson with her.
Jackson’s sign, decorated with stars, read, “My voice no to hate.”
“I want him to see what America’s all about,” Flora said. “I want him to see that hate doesn’t triumph and to speak out when he sees something wrong.”
Having worked in government for years, Flora said she’s troubled by President Trump’s recent actions.
“I am heartsick over what’s been going on,” Flora said.
Maria Lugo-Ferdinand did not stand with the protesters for long, but said she had a scheduled appointment with Buchanan’s office to express her concerns. She wrote them down to make sure she didn’t forget anything she wanted to say.
Born in Puerto Rico, Lugo-Ferdinand speaks with an accent and said she is “scared of a man who lies all the time, but calls his lies ‘alternative facts,’” and listed several other fears.
Karenann Christos said the executive order, which former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani said stemmed from Trump's desire for a “Muslim ban,” was personal for her. Her son married an Muslim woman and converted to Islam. Christos said her grandchildren have experienced discrimination that coincided with Trump's success in the presidential race.
“My granddaughter in September went to the bus stop and a bunch of Trump voter's kids knocked her off, knocked her over and pulled her headwrap off and told her, ‘You have to leave; Trump's going to make you leave now” Christos said.
Christos said she hoped it would not just be Democrats opposing Trump.
“A lot of Republicans here who are so angry about what's going on. I think the Republicans, including this guy, know (Trump) is mentally ill,” Christos said, gesturing toward Buchanan's office. “Why don't they just impeach him, stick Pence in there, and we’ll get to 2020.”
Lori Hulvey said she has been helping organize “Resist Trump Tuesdays,” where protestors gather weekly at Senator Marco Rubio’s office.
“We recognize that he’s a Republican and he’s in a tough spot, but I don't think that he is standing up to Trump” Hulvey said.
Perry hopes the protests Monday can show Buchanan not all Florida residents agree.
“The best outcome for us would be for Vern Buchanan to vote against the wall and use his influence on the travel ban to get it rescinded and to send a message to all elected officials in Florida that we are opposed to this. As well as all elected officials in D.C. The numbers count so the more we can get out and protest the better it is,” Perry said.