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  1. Florida Politics

Seminole Heights restaurant "Dunks Trump" to benefit Planned Parenthood

Dylan Kenyon celebrates after dunking Trump during the Dunk Trump Fundraiser.  Retired Army Sergeant First Class Scott Lambert dresses as President Donald Trump as part of the Dunk Trump fundraiser at Ella's Folk Art Cafe in Tampa. The fundraiser organized by Ella's benefitted Planned Parenthood. [Sunday, September 3, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Dylan Kenyon celebrates after dunking Trump during the Dunk Trump Fundraiser. Retired Army Sergeant First Class Scott Lambert dresses as President Donald Trump as part of the Dunk Trump fundraiser at Ella's Folk Art Cafe in Tampa. The fundraiser organized by Ella's benefitted Planned Parenthood. [Sunday, September 3, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Published Sep. 4, 2017

Over the weekend, the Facebook page for Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe turned into a microcosm of the polarized state of American politics, as commenters debated the Seminole Heights restaurant's Sunday fundraiser for Planned Parenthood.

By donating $5, Ella's customers were given three softballs to toss at a target on a carnival-style water tank placed on the eatery's outdoor back patio. A direct hit dunked a man costumed as President Donald Trump.

Some wrote on the Facebook post promoting the event they were disgusted by the fundraising means and would stop dining at Ella's. Others were so in favor of the event, or of supporting Planned Parenthood, that they pledged to eat there more often.

But on Sunday, there was little debate at the restaurant.

"It's funny people are getting so worked up about this," said Ella's owner Melissa Deming. "But a lot of people hide behind their keyboard. I wasn't worried about angry people showing up."

Nor was she concerned about losing business.

If customers boycott Ella's over the Dunk Trump event, Deming said that's their prerogative, just as it's hers as a business owner to voice displeasure with the president's desire to defund Planned Parenthood.

The century-old provider of reproductive health services offers sex education, contraceptives and birth control. Abortions constitute 3 percent of the group's total services and abortion foes have long tried to eliminate the group's federal funding.

Since taking office, Trump has signed a bill allowing states to redirect tax dollars from organizations that provide abortions, and cut a grant program that would have spent $214 million to support teen pregnancy prevention. Some of that money would have gone to Planned Parenthood.

None of the diners that the Tampa Bay Times spoke to were offended by the event.

"I feel a lot of (Trump's) policies are opposed to my sex," said Briana Henderson. "So, if I can dunk him and help Planned Parenthood, I'm for it."

A band that planned to perform at Ella's on Sunday canceled upon hearing the nature of the fundraiser. Owner Deming wouldn't name the musicians.

"We're just having fun and raising money for a good cause," she said.

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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