In-person voting starts, Donald disses Donalds; women, Dems, rise and ride: The SWFL roundup

A Collier County voter puts his ballot in an official drop box at the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office. (Photo: Author)

Oct. 19, 2020 by David Silverberg

Early in-person voting begins today in Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties.

Voting by mail has already been massive, according to both counties’ election supervisor offices. In Lee County, 135,997 votes had been cast, a turnout of 27.80 percent, as of yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18, at 11 am. In Collier County, 61,940 votes had been cast, 26.73 percent of the electorate, as of the same date and hour.

The in-person voting comes after an extraordinarily eventful weekend that began with a presidential visit to Fort Myers on Friday, Oct. 16—and the remarkable snub of what many had considered a rising Republican star.

Donald disses Donalds

President Donald Trump does his shout-outs to local officials and supporters–but not Byron Donalds–during his speech in Fort Myers on Oct. 16.

Friday should have been a big day for Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), who is running for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

Instead, it was a day that saw him forced to declare that he had come down with COVID-19. And to add insult to injury he was ignored and overlooked by his hero and idol, President Donald Trump.

During the Republican congressional primary this summer, few candidates touted their loyalty and subservience to President Donald Trump more than Donalds, who amidst his many accolades said he was “incredibly proud to stand with President Trump.” In the traditional mafia-like mindset in which Trump operates, such loyalty by a soldier should be repaid in kind by the mafia chieftain.

When the Godfather came to Fort Myers, it was an opportunity for a laying on of hands, for a blessing from the Boss himself in front of lots of local media and adoring Trumpers. It might have been the moment when Donalds decisively clinched the election 18 days before the votes were counted.

Instead, Donalds was tested for COVID-19 before meeting with Trump and turned up positive, which he announced on his Facebook page around 5 pm. He couldn’t come in contact with the president and instead of a public anointing it was his very public infection that was the headline about him dominating local news.

But beyond the embarrassment of a vociferously anti-mask Donalds catching COVID, there was the added disrespect (dissing) from his idol and hero.

In his speech at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center, Trump went through a series of shout-outs to local politicians and worthies, acknowledging and praising them.

One should not underestimate the importance of these shout-outs during political speeches and events. They’re something every politician does and while they may seem boring and formulaic to those in the audience, they’re critical to those named. In the case of a politician who has a blindly loyal following like Trump, they are an essential blessing and benediction—especially to candidates running for election.

In the middle of his speech Trump took the time to do a round of shout-outs. He named Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), whose popularity he compared to Elvis; he lauded as “warriors” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-12-Fla.)—“great job, Gus”—and Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.)—“another friend of mine.” Mayor Randy Henderson (R) was praised—“good job, Randy”—as was Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello (R)—“great job, great job.” He said he was honored by the presence of World War II and Korean War veteran Wally Cortese—“You look good, Wally, I’ll tell you. Two wars and you’re looking—you’re looking good,” (interestingly, not “thank you for your service.”). He also thanked members of the Golden Gate Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard.

And even if Donalds wasn’t present in the audience, any experienced observer of political rituals would have expected a shout-out to a faithful follower, especially one running for Congress from the president’s party, an ally whom the president would theoretically need in a second term. So the next name to trip from the president’s tongue should have been…Byron Donalds.

But there was no naming of Byron Donalds. Instead the president moved on to tell the audience how he was fighting to protect them from “the China virus” and the “radical-left movement.”

Make no mistake: Byron Donalds has been endorsed by Trump, who issued a tweet in his favor on Sept. 10—well after the Aug. 18 Republican primary. An endorsement during the primary race could have made all the difference in the world to Donalds. However, Trump has only been endorsing Republican candidates after they’ve won their primaries in what he regards as safe districts—to preserve his record of seeming infallibility in picking winners.

Nor was there a subsequent word of sympathy or a get-well wish from the notoriously unempathetic president. Indeed, Donalds got more compassion from his Democratic opponent Cindy Banyai who tweeted: “I wish him and his family well as he recovers.”

Apparently, when you’re COVID-infected you’re already dead to Donald Trump.

Democrats, women, rise up and ride

Wally and Carol Hedman, organizers of the “Dump Trump” caravan are interviewed before setting out in Fort Myers. (Photo: Author)

While the president’s visit brought out his supporters, it also mobilized Democrats and other Biden/Harris supporters.

On Friday, activists conducted a Ridin’ for Biden, “Dump Trump” caravan to counter Trump’s appearance in Fort Myers.

Inspired by an editorial in The Paradise Progressive, activist Wally Hedman, who has organized Biden/Harris rides in the past, served as organizer and lead driver for the caravan.

Consisting of 20-plus cars festooned with flags, signs and bunting, the caravan traveled up Route 41, through downtown Fort Myers and onto Martin Luther King Blvd., prior to Trump’s arrival.

The event was covered by WINK News’ Zach Oliveri and Fox4 News’ Rob Manch and the Fort Myers News-Press. NBC2 News did not cover it.

The “Dump Trump” caravan under way through the streets of Fort Myers. (Image: Fox4 News)

It demonstrated a Democratic presence amid the raucous Trump gathering.

Democratic demonstrators were also on the sidewalks outside the Caloosa Center to show their opposition to Trump. While there were some arguments with Trumpers, there were no physical altercations or arrests.

The following day the local chapter of the national Women’s March took to the streets of Fort Myers when approximately 300 supporters lined the sidewalks to “affirm our shared humanity and declare our bold message of advocacy and self-determination,” according to the local Women’s March website. “We march against sexism, racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, misuse or abuse of power, sexual abuse, discrimination against immigrants, gun violence, denial of environmental injustice, and lack of respect for human dignity,” it stated.

Participants in the Fort Myers Women’s March Day of Action protest on Saturday, Oct. 17. (Image: NBC2)

Superspeader event

Trump’s appearance at the Caloosa Center was invitation-only and limited to 400 people, although some random people on the street were allowed in just prior to the start of the event. Inside, attendees were distanced from each other and masks were worn. People coming into contact with Trump were tested for coronavirus prior to the event, which is how Byron Donalds’ infection was discovered.

An unmasked Trumper confronts masked Biden/Harris supporters during Trump’s visit to Fort Myers. (Photo: Fox4 News, by Juan Reina)

However, on the street outside numerous Trumpers were largely unmasked and crowded together, creating conditions for a COVID superspreader event.

As of Sunday, Oct. 18, the Florida Department of Health was reporting 755,020 cases in the state and a total of 15,967 deaths among state residents. In Lee County that came to 21,625 cases and 492 deaths. However, the Florida COVID Action Site created by dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones, who has charged that the state is suppressing coronavirus data, reports 824,724 cases and 16,118 deaths statewide. In Lee County, it reports 23,005 cases and 502 deaths since March 1.

With an incubation period of 10 to 14 days, Lee County medical facilities should start seeing an influx of coronavirus victims from the Trump visit around Halloween.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Marches, demonstrations show SWFL vitality, determination

01-18-20 Fifth Ave.Marchers in Saturday’s Women’s March fill Naples’ Fifth Avenue.            (Photos: Author)

Jan. 20, 2020 by David Silverberg

Today, marchers in Naples and Fort Myers will commemorate the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK). This past Saturday, Jan. 18, activists marched in support of democratic values, liberal causes and to protest the Trump administration’s corruption and assault on women and their concerns.

Saturday’s Women’s March to Win in Naples and the march in Fort Myers were vigorous, enthusiastic and exuberant. The same spirit will likely pervade today’s marches.

But do such marches and demonstrations make a difference, especially in broadly conservative and predominantly Republican Southwest Florida?

The ultimate results won’t be known until the election in November. However, the robust turnouts for the women’s marches demonstrated that liberal political activism in Southwest Florida is alive, well and energetic—and poised to make a difference in both election results and people’s attitudes.

Organizers of the Naples march, formally titled Women March to Win, included Collier Freedom, the Collier County Democratic Party and its Environmental Caucus, SWFL Justice for All, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and Collier Students for Change. The Fort Myers march was hosted by the Alliance and Women’s March Fort Myers, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

The Naples March was significant in that it was the first time since the marches began in 2017 that organizers received a permit to use the street rather than just the sidewalks. Marchers started and ended in Cambier Park.

Both local marches were part of demonstrations that took place around the country.

The historical context

IMG-8354Women’s March participants take the stage at Cambier Park to mark 100 years of women’s suffrage.

Marches and parades probably began when humans started walking upright. They’ve always been expressions of enthusiasm and triumph but in the current context they’re also important for marking critical historic occasions.

This year’s Women’s Marches commemorated the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and in a more recent context, the outpouring of protest in 2017 against President Donald Trump’s racism, bigotry and misogyny.

The MLK parades celebrate MLK’s commitment to non-violence, peaceful resistance and his efforts to achieve equality, fairness and justice.

So such parades and demonstrations serve the purpose of passing on a legacy to the next generation, honoring the struggles that have gone before and remembering the values that powered the movements.

A show of strength

IMG-8332Some of the groups hosting the Women’s March in Naples.

Turnout at demonstrations is always a measure of the strength of a movement and the broadness of its appeal.

In 2017, an estimated half million people turned out in Washington, DC for the first Women’s March, vastly eclipsing Trump’s paltry inauguration crowds. In Naples, 2017 turnout was unexpectedly large, with several thousand people filling Cambier Park and surrounding streets. It was especially surprising in light of Naples’ seeming somnolence, its apparent conservatism and its reputed indifference to politics. Organizers had expected a crowd of around 500 people; ultimate participation was orders of magnitude larger.

This year, an estimated 3.000 people participated in Naples based on a count of wrist bands provided by March organizers in an effort to get an accurate tally. The count may actually be higher, according to Cynthia Morino-Clark, a March organizer, since not all volunteers attending the march received wristbands. In Fort Myers, WINK News estimated that over 2,000 people marched from the Alliance for the Arts to Centennial Park.

Turnout should be good in this year’s more traditional, more officially organized MLK parades.

In addition to their other purposes, demonstrations of this type also forge solidarity among demonstrators. Particularly in Southwest Florida where liberal activists may often feel that they’re struggling in isolation, demonstrations are an expression of common purpose and wider support.

Electoral exposure

01-18-20 Holden and supporters cropped and adjustedDemocratic congressional candidate David Holden and supporters.

Parades, marches and demonstrations are always an opportunity for electoral candidates to show support for the cause and greet people.

Democratic candidates for office appeared at both Women’s Marches this year: congressional candidates David Holden in Naples and Cindy Banyai in Fort Myers; Sara McFadden and Maureen Porras for state legislature in Naples and John Jenkins, a candidate for Collier County Commission.

01-18-20 Cindy Banyai Ft. Myers Women's MarchDemocratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai (center) and supporters demonstrate in the Fort Myers Women’s March.                                           (Photo: Cindy Banyai campaign)

Voter turnout was a major theme of the Women’s Marches, which featured exhortations to vote and voter registration opportunities during the rallies.

Conversely, the Women’s Marches were also an opportunity to protest against Trump administration policies and prejudice.

01-18-20 Provocateur
The Trumper provocateur.

That sentiment wasn’t universally shared. A Trump provocateur inserted himself at the head of the Naples parade, although he was later separated by police from the main body of the march. He then posted himself outside Cambier Park. He has appeared to disrupt other events in the past, like gatherings of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors. Asked his name, he replied “Donald Trump Jr.”




Spreading the word

01-18-20 Women's March spectatorsSpectators at the Naples Women’s March show their support.

Demonstrations, marches and parades help spread a message. Though spectators were sparse at the Women’s March in Naples, the march did elicit spontaneous support from observers.

Coverage of the march by local traditional media was erratic. WINK-TV reported both marches with extended coverage. The Naples Daily News covered it with photos on page three the following day. NBC-2 television news did not mention a single word about the march in its 6:00 pm broadcast that night and only posted a short story prior to the march on its website.

The MLK Parade, since it is scheduled annually and is a more formally organized event, should receive at least some coverage in all Southwest Florida’s media outlets.

The usefulness of events

IMG-8338A very determined marcher.

The United States Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to peacefully assemble and petition government for a redress of grievances. As long as those rights remain inviolate, demonstrations, marches and protests will occur.

Demonstrations can make a difference—and in a place like Southwest Florida, where a single party dominates all government, they are particularly important as an expression of popular sentiment and peaceful dissent.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg


Women’s March organizers in Naples get permit to march on Fifth Avenue

01-17-20 Women's march

Jan. 17, 2020 by David Silverberg

Organizers of tomorrow’s Women March to Win in Naples, Fla., have received a permit to march down Fifth Avenue, Naples’ main street, in contrast to past marches, according to an organizer of the event.

In past years, marchers have gathered at Broad and Third streets in Naples and were only permitted to march on the sidewalk to reach Cambier Park.

This year the march will be shorter in distance, beginning and ending in Cambier Park. Participants will gather at 9:00 am in the park and step off at 10:00 am. Following the march, speakers will address the crowd in Cambier until 2:00 pm.

In Fort Myers, marchers will gather at The Alliance for the Arts, 10091 McGregor Blvd, at 10:00 am and rally until 1:00 pm.

Further details can be found at the Facebook pages of the Naples’ Women’s March and the Fort Myers Women’s March.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Opinion: Naples Women’s March sent strong message


Jan. 24, 2019 By Jennifer Boddicker

On Saturday, Jan. 19, women sent a strong message at the Women Leading the Way March in Naples’ Cambier Park, organized by Collier Freedom.

While controversy around the national Women’s March may have impacted turnout, which was less than in previous years, the spirit and enthusiasm was obvious—and the message was unmistakable.

01-19-19 mirlande desir naples women's march
Mirlande Desir

Longtime resident 93-year-old Myra Daniels, as well as 16-year-old youth activist Anna Barry, declared the need for women to continue breaking gender barriers. Mirlande Desir, of the Naples Haitian community, called for comprehensive immigration reform and protection for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipients. Pam Keith, the first African America female to run for U.S. Senate from Florida, encouraged engagement with fellow citizens, even Trump supporters, about issues such as Medicare, Social Security, and healthcare.

Pink T-shirts of Planned Parenthood supporters dotted the crowd, as well as red T-shirts from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Susan Cone, president of the local Moms Demand Action chapter, reminded everyone that gun violence is a non-partisan issue. Public pressure after the Parkland shooting caused Florida to pass small, but meaningful landmark gun safety legislation in 2018.

01-19-19 jennifer boddicker cropped
Jennifer Boddicker

Annisa Karim, Collier County Democratic Chair, voiced the need for better representation and engagement with local government. David Holden, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, encouraged male allies to listen and avoid mansplaining—drawing chuckles from the crowd.

Penny Taylor, Collier County commissioner, gave a history of females in government in Collier County.

Several speakers (including myself) called for attendees to get involved and elect more women at all levels of government. We also celebrated a record 118 females elected to the US Congress in 2018, including people of color, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQ community.

That fight has only just begun.

(Photos courtesy of Jennifer Boddicker)



Liberty lives in light