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Trump's trip to Bedminster prompts protesters to get creative

President Donald Trump’s lengthy planned vacation at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club will test the ingenuity of protesters hoping to disrupt his vacation — or at least take advantage of his presence to draw attention to their causes.

Police say the road and shoulder directly outside the Trump National Golf Club are too narrow for people to safely congregate, forcing sign-bearing protesters to hang out down the road — and out of earshot — in a designated “free speech zone” by the Clarence Dillon Public Library when Trump is in town.

More creative ideas floated by groups like Indivisible and We the People have had to be tossed — such as releasing hundreds of orange balloons over the golf course (scrapped because of environmental concerns), spray painting the healthcare vote tally on the road leading up to the entrance (Somerset County fines), or flying a banner over the course (no-fly zone imposed by the Secret Service).

Locals can still drive past the Bedminster club, so the local chapter of We the People has taken police orders to “keep moving” literally, forming a motorcade that circles around the lavish course each Saturday, whether Trump is in town or not.

Additional past tactics have included hanging large signs on overpasses and even spurring actions inside the club — from coordinated pink hats to the occasional attempted heckle — which the organizers briefly pulled off during the LPGA tournament at Trump National in mid-July.

“We’ve had to get really creative,” said Analilia Mejia, director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. “The motorcade was born out of the fact that you can’t stand still, and there isn’t enough room for a picket line. You can’t fly things either. I don’t know what else to call it, but [the motorcade] is like one part parade, two parts protest each Saturday.”

Protesting presidents while they’re on vacation has never been easy. From squeezing onto narrow shoulders in Hawaii to protest President Barack Obama to being cordoned off site to make a statement to President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, demonstrators haven’t enjoyed the same latitude given in more traditional venues, including Lafayette Park in front of the White House, where the National Park Service is in charge of issuing protest permits.

Protesters repeatedly marched over the winter near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the president spent many weekends after taking office, targeting specific policies like Trump’s travel ban executive order or the decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords.

At Bedminster, some activists say they’re driven by more quotidian concerns: the inconveniences that Trump’s weekend getaways create for residents.

“I think Trump should stay in that dump he described in Washington, D.C.” said Peg Schaffer, the chair of the Somerset County Democratic Committee. “It’s screwing up the traffic in the area.”

Schaffer — who has in the past hosted a Democratic Party victory party at Trump’s Bedminster club — said she also objects to the use of taxpayer dollars to secure Trump Organization properties: “How many of his properties are the American people supposed to pay for security at?”

The Bedminster Police declined to comment.

Judith Sullivan, the Bedminster town clerk, said that the town has been contacted about reimbursement for expected expenditures such as police overtime.

“The community is used to having high-level people here quite often,” Sullivan said. “Yes, he’s the president, and that’s a bit different, but I would say the town is proud more than anything.”

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office said that it would be reimbursed by the federal government for the services it provides when Trump is in town, but declined to comment any further.

A White House spokeswoman said Trump’s time away from D.C. is not unlike what other presidents have done.

“The president is spending his time away from Washington at the very same places he frequented during his time as a private citizen, as prior presidents have done in the past,” she said. “Additionally, by staying in Bedminster rather than in New York City, the president avoids the mass inconvenience and potential economic impact that would be created in such a densely populated area.”

Activists say their goal isn’t just to irk the president, but to draw attention to policy issues in the predominantly Republican stronghold of Somerset County. “We need to educate people too, to understand that this isn’t a reality TV show,” Mejia said. “This is real life.”

One idea is to go beyond the golf course, town to town, with vehicles blasting sound from speakers, such as former FBI director James Comey’s Senate testimony or Trump’s recent Boy Scout speech.

“There are literally too many soundbites to choose from,” said Dominae Leveille, an organizer with We the People.

The Somerset County Republican Organization didn’t respond to multiple calls for comment about any planned events in support of Trump.

Girvan said that he wants all demonstrations to be environmentally friendly, a goal that’s prompted him to look beyond the Saturday car convoys around the golf course. For the president’s vacation, Girvan says he’s organizing more than a hundred cyclists to make loops around the area, which would be only as fast as 10 to 15 miles per hour — which will slow down traffic.

The name for the fresh tactic? The pedal-cade.

“It’s a call-out to all liberal cyclists!” said Girvan. He added: “As long as he’s here, we’ll be here.”

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