ORLANDO—“We didn’t invite him, we don’t want him, and we’re telling him to leave our town.”
Suzy Spang, a hotel owner and Orlando resident, held her handmade “Trump is a Traitor” sign high as she spoke.
Surrounding her was a crowd of nearly a thousand protesters that shared her views holding signs with social justice slogans and Democrat party mantras who had gathered outside the Stonewall gay bar in downtown Orlando.
Two blocks away, thousands of Trump supporters were filing into the Amway Arena, where President Donald Trump would announce his presidential reelection campaign later in the night.
The anti-Trump protest featured picket signs, chants of “not my dictator” and “impeach him now,” and a special guest—a 30-foot inflatable balloon depicting Trump in a diaper. The balloon, previously seen at protests of the President’s events in the U.K. and Ireland, was shipped to Orlando after a local crowdfunding campaign raised $5000 to transport the balloon (Spang says she personally pitched in $25).
The protest, organized by state Democrat leaders and local activists, was dubbed the “Win with Love Rally” and lasted for over two hours. As performers led chants and sang lyrics like “I just can’t give up now” from a small stage, protestors at the posed for photos and excitedly discussed the upcoming election.
Conrad Czaczyk, a 22-year-old student, traveled from West Palm Beach for the protest.
“I wanted to be here because this seems like a really good opportunity to take a stand against Trump at his first real campaign rally for this election,” he said. Czaczyk says he’s supporting Senator Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 race, and that the policies he cares about most are universal healthcare and “taxing the rich.”
Billie Jean Pryor, a 32-year old bartender in Orlando, said she wants Trump to lose the election because of his misogynist rhetoric. Pryor held a handmade sign that read, “my body, my rights.”
“I’m a mother and I’m terrified by how my daughters future is going to be dictated by this man who talks about grabbing women,” Pryor said. “I would support any rational being for our next president, but maybe it’s time for a woman president.”
As the protest began, around 20 members of the white supremacist group Proud Boys shouted at protesters, but were denied entry to the block by police. Over a hundred protestors gathered across the police line from the Proud Boys, most of them holding signs silently. The standoff lasted for over an hour.
Ana Peña, a 55 year old dental technician from Orlando, spent the afternoon walking between the protest and crowds of Trump supporters wearing a shirt that read, “stop family separations” and holding flags of the U.S., Mexico, and El Salvador, where she traces her lineage.
“I just want people to have to think about the pain that’s being caused,” she said. “Maybe I’ll change somebody’s minds.”
Addressing protestors from the stage, Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) touted the fact that Trump lost Orange County in 2016.
“He lost here last time, he’s going to lose here this time, because in Orlando we don’t stand for that,” Guillermo Smith said.