At U.S. Women's Open, Trump protesters persist
A determined contingent went down a dirt road less traveled to protest during the first round at Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, N.J.
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Standing on the overpass, it was hard to hear over the air horns of the big rigs, but the fury came through over the sound.
"They've made a concerted effort to make sure that there is no protest," said Trump protester Tim Levielle.
"They've made it very hard," said his wife, Dominae.
In fact, the people running the U.S. Women's Open have effectively made protesters invisible to most fans.
Tim, 56, and Dominae, 53, both Bedminster residents, were the front line of resistance at the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday, which is being played at Trump National Golf Club. The Levielles stood on the Bunn Road overpass above the westbound lanes on I-78. They pressed anti-Trump signs against the chain-link fence that runs the length of the sidewalk: "Women's Rights Are Human Rights!" "Russsia! Russia! Russia!" And, of course, "Dump Trump!"
It was 90 degrees, humid and dusty; Bunn Road is dirt and crushed stone. Minutes later, strong thunderstorms would interrupt play … four miles away from the protesters. Still, they persisted.
Maureen Mahon, 65, of Basking Ridge, N.J., and Jim Girvan, 64, of Branchburg, N.J., joined the Levielles. About a mile west, on the grassy berm where I-287 South merges with I-78 West, three more protesters dodged traffic and pushed "Dump Trump!" signs into the ground.
Cars, trucks and tractor-trailers honked their support as they crept through the rush-hour snarl and disappeared under the overpass. Every honk earned a fist pump and a hoot from Dominae: "Woo-hoo!" In a few minutes, the three traffic dodgers — Lou DiPaolo, 24, of Dumont, N.J.; Anne Songcayauon, 23, of New Milford, N.J.; and James Rosenstein, 26, of South Orange, N.J. — trundled down Bunn Road and added more signs to the overpass display.
The protesters are affiliated with the New Jersey branch of Working Families, an organization whose website, workingfamilies.org, says it is "A progressive political organization that fights for an economy that works for all of us, and a democracy in which every voice matters," among other things. Its home page promotes #ResistTrumpTuesdays. Girvan said that on Saturdays when Trump visits the course, a motorcade of up to 50 cars drives past the private club, their drivers honking in dissent. Trump has visited the Bedminster course three times since being elected.
So, yes, the protesters are committed, and when it comes to their efforts to disrupt the Open, they are outraged. They had planned bigger actions at an overpass farther west, where golf fans would be more likely to see them. The group said that when local authorities found out their plans, the authorities restricted access to that area.
"There was going to be parking there. They moved that parking. Then they put up a bunch of 'No Parking and 'No Standing' signs," Tim Leveille complained. "The nearest place we can even drop people off at that overpass is more than a half a mile away."
To be fair, traffic logistics and safety concerns around a major golf tournament might justify rethinking parking lots and reconfiguring roadside parking. With that in mind, we contacted the Bedminster Township Police Department. The officer who answered the call declined to give his full name, said he had no knowledge of reconfiguration attempts, then referred further inquiries to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, which was closed. (Hillary Clinton won New Jersey and Somerset County in the November election, but Bedminster went to Trump.)
After a downpour Thursday afternoon, USGA officials moved several of the parking lots to Raritan Valley Community College, about six miles south of the course. Contacted Thursday night, Girvan was pleased, since routes from surrounding highways to the college might offer more visible sites for his organization's protests.
Local officials might not have wanted to talk about foiling planned protests, but they were ubiquitous in and around the event. Notably, two police vehicles were parked in the lot of the Clarence Dillon Public Library in Bedminster for most of the day, but nowhere else in town. The intersection next to the library has been designated a Free Speech Zone, though no one exercised the right at that site Thursday. Girvan promised that the library will be hopping Saturday morning.
"We're having a rally. We are inviting women who are running for state legislative seats in this area to speak, the National Organization for Women. Planned Parenthood," Girvan said.
Why Saturday? Why not Sunday, when the tournament crowns a champion?
Because, on Saturday, Trump is expected to attend the tournament … 2.7 miles away.