Horns were blaring, slogans were shouted and tempers occasionally boiled over Monday afternoon as Villages Democrats ran head-on into members of Villagers for Trump while caravanning by golf cart to Congressman Daniel Webster’s office at the government annex building on County Road 466.
The Democrats met at Barnes & Noble in Lake Sumter Landing and then made the journey to Webster’s office to show their disdain with his recent vote against the impeachment of President Trump. They estimated they had just shy of 200 golf carts, most of which were decked out in a variety of signs.
Waiting for them on the other side of the bridge over Lake Sumter, however, were 200-plus Villagers for Trump members and area Republicans, many sporting signs with various slogans printed on them and clothing showing their support for the president. They gathered long before the Democrats arrived and staged a mini-rally of sorts outside the annex building and at the nearby roundabout.
A few minutes later, however, whistles were blowing and cries of “Dump Trump!” rang out as the Democrats maneuvered their golf carts into the annex parking lot and back out again for the journey back to Lake Sumter Landing. Those were followed by chants of “We stand with Dan!” as Villagers for Trump members waved signs and showed their support for their congressman.
Things remained civil for the most part, although tempers sometimes flared as signs were stuck inside golf carts or in the faces of those standing along the multi-modal path. One golf cart passenger stuck her middle finger out as she passed by Villagers for Trump members waving banners. And some of those shouting at the Democrats compared them with communists and “Stalin’s men.”
But for the most part, peace prevailed and the clash was over in about 45 minutes.
“This is fun. This is democracy as it’s meant to be,” said Village of Pine Ridge resident Mark Lehew. “I love that there was no violence and we all had fun. We shook a lot of hands and we got to trade our thoughts.”
But Barbara Scheer, who said she’s passionate about Trump getting impeached, had a much different feeling after the rally was over.
“I thought the Republicans were rabid and I felt attacked,” said the Village of Virginia Trace resident, who added that the turnout of area Democrats gave her goosebumps and made her feel quite patriotic.
Villager Cindy Grossman, who helped organized the rally, agreed.
“I know it’s a little scary but we cannot let people be intimidated,” she said. “I don’t mind whatever your political view is. You can stand on the corners and shout it out. But you can’t tell other people that they can’t be part of this process. We all live here and we’re all allowed to work for a government that reflects our values.”
As for the turnout of Villagers for Trump members, Grossman said she really didn’t give it much thought.
“It’s their prerogative to be there,” she said. “That’s what America’s all about and that’s how democracy works. But we were there and we delivered a whole stack of letters and postcards to Congressman Webster that reflect our views.”
Rick Greenberg, of the Village of Hillsborough, said he thought the Villagers for Trump members outnumbered the Democratic contingent, adding that he counted about 130 golf carts in their caravan.
“That might be all the Democrats in The Villages,” he said with a chuckle.
But two of those Democrats, Marguerite Desbrow and Lillie Battle, didn’t hesitate to speak their minds as the caravan prepared to cross the multi-modal path near the annex building.
“I’m a Democrat, 100 percent, and I think it’s wonderful,” said Desbrow, of the Village of Duval. “I just wish more Democrats would get out and show exactly how they feel.”
Battle, of the Village of St. Charles, agreed.
“I think it’s fantastic that we have a right to speak our minds,” she said.
Barbara Wilson, of the Village of Osceola Hills, offered a different viewpoint as she shouted, “Four more years” and then offered some advice for the Democrats.
“They really need to rethink their position,” she said. “They need to really look at both sides and honestly weigh the information.”
Josie Spadaro, of Haciendas of Mission Hills, took it a step further.
“They really don’t have a clue,” she said. “And it’s a shame because they’re blinded. They’re brainwashed.”
Spadaro added that conservatives must fight back against the constant attacks on the president.
“The truth will always prevail,” she said. “All I know is I’ve got God on my side and he tells me that I should fight evil in politics and come out and do the right thing. And I am here.”
Meanwhile, after the rally ended, Joseph Donatone, with the Tri-County Unitarian Universalists in Summerfield, said he appreciated the expression of such diverse points of view. But he said he stands with those who have had enough of the Trump administration.
“There’s a big group of people here in The Villages that is progressive and they want to see some change in the world,” he said.
Eleanor Strickland, of the Village of Belle Aire, said she’s been a resident of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown for 17 years and while Monday’s demonstration wasn’t the largest she’s participated in, it was among the most contentious.
“We were met at the other end with a very vociferous group,” she said.
Villagers for Trump member Sue Cianci, who serves as co-chair along with Donna Hoak of the group’s Action Committee, said she was thrilled with the turnout of her fellow Republicans.
“It was fabulous,” she said.
Hoak said the group wanted to show their support for Webster’s recent vote against impeachment. And Cianci said that message came across loud and clear.
“Everybody helped by shouting ‘Stand with Dan,’” she said. “And there was “Four more years!” and “We love Trump.”
As for the Democrats, Grossman promised that the opposition hasn’t heard the last of them.
“We have a lot at stake in this world,” she said. “We want an honest government that represents our values. And that’s what we’re going to work for every single day for the next year.”