Staking a claim in a park in the center of the unofficial capital of the LGBT community in South Florida, supporters of President Donald Trump sought Monday to tout him as a brilliant and committed ally who deserves the votes of gays and lesbians.
They had all the trappings of a rally: a portable loudspeaker, a lectern, a flag with “Trump 2020” on one side and the LGBT rainbow on the other, and a 2-year old French bulldog named Trumpster. The dog wore a “Trump 2020” shirt.
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It didn’t go terribly well.
Only about a dozen of Trump’s supporters showed up for the event in Wilton Manors. And their loudspeaker failed, meaning that almost everything the five speakers said was drowned out by a nearby group of two dozen LGBT activists and Democrats — who had the advantage of a working megaphone.
“Let me tell you, the LGBT community and Democrats, the greatest crime today is being silent, and not openly supporting the greatest president of our lifetime, Donald J. Trump,” said event organizer Andrew Brett, who describes himself as a proud American, Christian, Republican and gay supporter of “our great President Trump.”
Brett, a Wilton Manors resident, is president of the Broward chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, a primarily LGBT political club, and owner of Trumpster the dog.
“I ask all of you today to look into your souls and have a come-to-Jesus meeting realizing that President Trump is not the monster, ogre or orange man to the GLBT community or Democratic community, that he is the beacon of light, hope, prosperity and keeping America great,” Brett said.
Brett was joined by Darlene Swaffar, James Pruden and Greg Musselwhite, all Republican candidates for Congress in South Florida districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic and are currently represented by Democratic incumbents.
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The anti-Trump contingent was extremely unhappy about what they saw as an incursion of Trump’s forces in Wilton Manors, which has a large LGBT population and in 2018 became one of the few places in America where all the elected officials who run the city are gay or lesbian.
Bob Darrow, an Oakland Park real estate broker, complained that the pro-Trump people “had the audacity to come here. I’m offended that they would bring their message to the home of the gay community here in Wilton Manors when everything they stand for goes against equality for gays and lesbians.”
Michael Julian of Fort Lauderdale, who said he works as an entertainer, said the Trump administration is moving toward “complete eradication of rights for gay people, people of color [and] women.”
One protestor’s sign contained a large swastika and referred to the “Log Cabin RepubliKKKans.” Another asked, “What’s the right word for gay Uncle Tom?”
As the event got underway, Democratic LGBT activist Michael Rajner of Wilton Manors took to the megaphone to chant “shame, shame, shame,” from across the street at the Republicans. “You’re the modern-day Nazi party,” he said.
Eventually he and other Democrats crossed the street and used the megaphone to read from a list of 63 policies they said showed anti-LGBT policies pushed by the Trump administration.
The Democratic group included former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who is running to regain his old job; Tom Green, the vice mayor of Wilton Manors; and Ken Evans, the state Democratic committeeman for Broward County and a member of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus.
Trump fared poorly with LGBT voters in 2016 — worse than the previous two Republican nominees. Exit polls show Trump received the support of 14% of LGBT voters in 2016, compared to 22% for Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney in 2012 and 27% for John McCain in 2008.
Exit polling shows LGBT voters went overwhelmingly Democratic in the 2018 midterm elections.
Brett and the other speakers said the thriving economy and what they see as Trump’s making America great again were key reasons for supporting his re-election. He said the Democratic Party is the party of division and the Republican Party is the party of “inclusion for all Americans.”
Brett also argued that Trump has been an ally to the LGBT community, offering support in his speech to the 2016 Republican National Convention, having appointed five openly gay ambassadors and two judges, and pledging last year during a speech to the United Nations that he wanted an end to criminalization of homosexuality in countries where it’s a crime. Trump tweeted his support for last June’s LGBT pride month.
Carol Moroco, vice president of the Broward-based Americans for Trump, said “to be treated equally, fairly and justly under the law is something that this president promotes for all Americans, especially the LGBTQ community.”
Rajner said the notion that Trump is good for LGBT people is a lie. “What the administration has done is to attack us.”
Democrats cite a litany of Trump administration policies: banning transgender people from military service, opposing LGBT civil rights, nominating people with anti-LGBT views as federal judges, removing “sexual orientation” from non-discrimination policies, ordering U.S. embassies not to fly the rainbow flag during pride month and proposing a rule allowing faith-based groups to exclude LGBT families.
“Trump is taking away our rights,” Evans said. “All his policies, since the day he took office, are to take away all LGBT rights, right after right, day after day.”
Anthony Man can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @browardpolitics.
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