Members of the club plan to demonstrate peacefully wearing matching shirts and carrying signs.
THE VILLAGES — Protests are planned for President Donald Trump’s visit to The Villages.
The Villages Democratic Club has organized a “hate has no home here” rally. Members of the club plan to demonstrate peacefully wearing matching shirts bearing the slogan and carrying signs.
“We’re going to rally for pro-American ideals, pro-democracy and show our exuberance for November 2020,” said club President Chris Stanley.
Trump is visiting the retirement community Thursday to speak on Medicare. According to a White House official, he’s expected to sign an executive order “protect and improve” Medicare during the invitation-only event, which will be held at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.
Those who don’t have a ticket can watch the president’s address from a large screen outside the venue in Spanish Springs Town Square.
The president is currently facing an impeachment inquiry, and, although he's talking about Medicare on Thursday, may go off-script and mention it.
Certainly protesters will.
Stanley has gotten calls from Democrats as far south as Miami asking for guidance on getting to the event.
“Come up the night before, get a hotel and Uber over,” she’s told them.
But Stanley expects hers won’t be the only group protesting in the community nicknamed "Florida's Friendliest Hometown."
“We’re going to be inundated by Proud Boys and neo-Nazis and Democrats and Trump-supporting Republicans and anti-Trump Republicans,” she said.
In June, the club took a bus to protest outside of Trump’s campaign kickoff in Orlando. Its members had some run-ins with the Proud Boys, an alt-right men’s group who describe themselves as "Western chauvinists."
In a video tweeted by an Associated Press reporter, a group of Proud Boys are talking with a member of the club, donning her “hate has no home here” shirt.
The short clip doesn’t show much of their interaction, but ends with the woman saying “I love you, too. You have a good day,” and patting one of them on the back.
Law enforcement ultimately stopped the Proud Boys from getting to the main protest.
Still, Stanley has concerns about security.
“But not showing up at all isn’t an option either,” she said. “We need to be heard.”
Villagers for Trump and The Villages Republican Club don’t have organized plans to counter protest.
However, David Gee, founder of the Trump supporters group, said its members will arrive to the venue in style — their golf carts decorated to show their enthusiasm.
“We’re going to stay very positive and proactive,” Gee said. “Some of us will be inside, but we will have a very large contingent of our group outside, too.”
That evening, the club is hosting its second annual Trump Day Dinner, with special guest speaker Stephen Baldwin, Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin’s brother.
Meanwhile, Stanley has urged her members to keep their signage civil.
“Let’s be there, let’s have a positive tone to what were doing instead of profanity,” she said she advised the club.
“He doesn’t reflect American ideals, Florida ideals, Villages ideals, my ideals and I think most of our ideals,” Stanley said. “With a positive message, I hope that people will reflect on what America is and what it should be.”
About 10 miles away, the Sumter County Democratic Party is hosting a day of action at its headquarters in Wildwood, right outside The Villages.
At 9:30 a.m., the HQ will host a press conference featuring representatives for the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. The topic? Highlighting “Donald Trump’s broken promises on Medicare,” according to a press release.
Then, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the party is welcoming Democrats to phone bank and canvas.
“The club is doing a rally and a lot of people who want to do that,” said Cathie Hardy, chairwoman of the party. “Some don’t want to have to stand outside all day and hike in from the back 40. So this is a great way for people to come and take some action and do something different.”
While The Villages is certainly a Republican stronghold, Democrats there are organized and active. Democrats in Sumter County make up only 24% of the county’s nearly 102,000 registered voters. But The Villages Democratic Club boasts 1,000 members, the largest in the state.
“I don’t think people realize in The Villages how many of us there are,” Stanley said. “We host a Democratic neighbor orientation every month and every month I hear ‘I’m the only Democrat on my street.’ And when I show them which of their neighbors are Democrats, they’re always surprised.”
“We’re a voting bloc,” she continued.
That’s why LuAnn Kuder is protesting Thursday with signs that say "no one is above the law" and "impeachment."
“I want to show that not everybody in The Villages is behind Trump,” she said. "And that what’s going on is not acceptable."
This story originally published to dailycommercial.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.