First Coast’s Progressive Protesters Look To Tea Party For Strategies Against Donald Trump

Jan 31, 2017

Protesters gathering outside Sen. Marco Rubio's office Tuesday.
Credit Ryan Benk / WJCT News

Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio is getting pushback from some Jacksonville voters for what they say is weak opposition to President Donald Trump.

The demonstrators are some of the newest members of a growing progressive movement borrowing tactics from the conservative Tea Party.  

Chad Brockman is an organizer with the Nassau County chapter of the fledgling group calling itself Indivisible.

“Basically it’s working to influence your local congressman to oppose Trump’s agenda,” he said.

Like the Tea Party, Brockman said the Indivisible chapters are planning weekly protests outside both Democratic and Republican offices. Eventually he hopes that culminates in an electoral backlash against representatives who don't support the group’s agenda.

About 50 protesters were outside Rubio’s Jacksonville office Tuesday yelling chants criticizing the senator for his stances on the president’s cabinet nominees and plan to build a wall around the U.S.–Mexico border, among other issues.

Dorothy Gallant drove an hour from her Flagler County home to protest Republicans’ promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act. She said expanded coverage under the law saved her daughter’s life.

“In 2011 I found out my daughter was struggling with addiction and we got her into rehab. Without insurance there was no way she was going to rehab. She got sober shortly after attending rehab and she’s been sober ever since,” she said.

Protesters are also slamming Rubio for his response to the president’s executive order restricting travel and immigration.

As NPR reports, the order suspends new-refugee admissions for 120 days and blocks all other travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — for 90 days. Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely

Brockman said Indivisible chapters have been sprouting up around five counties in Northeast Florida since the election — Clay, Duval, St. Johns, Flagler and Nassau.

“A group of congressional staffers that were there when the Tea Party rose up have kind of learned from what they did, how they were able to stop President Obama when he came in with a mandate,” he said. “They’ve taken those things and created a guide with which we’re following.”

Indivisible, now a network of locally-focused activist groups that boasts thousands of members, started as a guide for resisting President Donald Trump. It was written by former staffers of Democratic Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett shortly after the election.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.