Backers of U.S. President Donald Trump held rallies across the country Saturday.
The “Spirit of America” rallies were organized by a group called the Main Street Patriots, which is made up of some of the same people that founded the Tea Party movement eight years ago to voice concerns about the way the federal government operates.
Trump, driving through Florida toward his Mar-a-Lago resort, stopped his motorcade briefly to see a group of about 100 cheering supporters at the roadside. The cheering, flag-waving group had set up an elaborate display, with flashing lights, images of Trump and his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and other messages decrying the president’s Democratic critics in Congress.
Debbie Dooley, a leader of the group and co-founder of the Tea Party, told Time magazine the rallies held Saturday were meant to be a positive response to recent negative events held by Trump’s political rivals.
“This is not a Tea Party rally,” she told Time. “We’re not anti-this and anti-that. We’re very focused on not having negative signs, making sure they’re positive and upbeat.”
Ralph King, a founder of the Main Street Patriots, told Cleveland.com, though, that the rallies were meant to shame Republicans who haven’t embraced Trump, more than to counter Democratic opposition.
“Donald Trump’s biggest roadblock is going to be the Republicans,” King told the website.
Rich Black, a rally organizer in Berkeley, California, told a CBS reporter the rally there was also meant to serve as “a march for free speech” — a response to violent protests last month at the University of California-Berkeley that forced conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos to cancel a scheduled speaking engagement.
“This cannot go unchallenged anymore,” Black told a local television station. “What you saw on February 1 [was] innocent people, including bystanders, being physically assaulted by these thugs. Let’s call it what it is.”
At least 60 pro-Trump rallies were scheduled to take place throughout the country Saturday — in large cities like Washington, small cities like Conway, South Carolina (population: 19,000) and cities as far removed as Honolulu, Hawaii.