Florida Turnpike protesters were turned away Tuesday by The Villages Recreation Department at the Everglades Recreation Center.
The protesters had planned to hold a 4 p.m. press conference at the recreation center, ahead of the 5 p..m.Sumter County Board of Commissioners’ meeting.
“What should have been a simple exercise of the rights of Sumter residents to voice their concerns, became a drama the day before, when after having offered a room in the Everglades Regional Recreation Center for the press conference the week before, the Recreation Department of The Villages contacted the No Roads to Ruin Coalition on Monday and rescinded their room offer with little time to make new plans,” said Michael McGrath, Sierra Club organizing representative, who had attempted to coordinate with the Recreation Department.
He said he was told that although the Board of County Commissioners meets there, “the Everglades Recreation Center is a private building run by The Villages and as such, The Villages personnel may escort us off the premises if we don’t have a room reservation, and remove us from the parking lot, sidewalk, or entranceway if they consider us an impediment to traffic flow.”
When further conversation with department personnel did not result in a remedy, event organizers decided to hold the 20-minute press conference on the grassy area alongside the bocce courts and parking lot.
The ultimate reason for rescinding the offer of a meeting room was given as “the smaller rooms have already been reserved by Sumter County for overflow as they are expecting a large crowd to this meeting,” McGrath.
He added the entire incident “left a bad taste in the mouths of Sumter County voters who expect better from their county commissioners.”