The no-parking signs are out, most everyone has moved their cars along the motorcade route and there’s a sense of “wait-and-see,” at least among the more politically aware folks on the island.
President Donald Trump is expected to land at the Naval Air Station field on Boca Chica at 11:45 a.m., today, then make the 7.5-mile trip to NAS Key West at the end of United Street for a meet-and-greet with Joint Interagency Task Force-South and a handful of local dignitaries, including Key West Mayor Craig Cates. The president is expected to depart before 2 p.m.
One must read the tea leaves — or conch shells as it were — to figure out what might be happening because there is paltry information from public sources, like the sheriff’s office, city and county government and Key West police. In fact, were it not for the so-called “coconut telegraph,” about all Key Westers would know is that we’re supposed to be patient with road closures and move our cars off the streets.
And, how do we know which streets? Not because there’s been an announcement. The city police are deliberately mum about the route,citing Secret Service security protocols. But there are enough barricades and no-parking signs out an about to make a decent guess that the motorcade is coming into town, hanging a left onto South Roosevelt past Smathers Beach, left onto Atlantic, right onto White at the White Street Pier and AIDS Memorial and another left on United, just past the new City Hall.
But…. That could be a red herring, designed to ensure protestors and supporters stay far away from the real thing. The president could well hop a helicopter ride on Marine One right to JIATF-S, or, heck, detour from the suspected route. One thing’s for sure, there’s only one road in and out of this tiny island and darn few straight shots into town and the NAS over near Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
What we know
- The president is supposed to be here today for short meeting with JIATF-S.
- Protestors and supporters are expected to line White Street from the pier to City Hall. From what I’ve followed on social media, even the most anti-Trump protestors know a peaceful protest is in order. As they say, this IS Key West; we don’t throw things. Organizers are reminding participants that, as one posted: “The Secret Service doesn’t mess around. Don’t do stupid.”
- And, that report this morning in the Key West Citizen that folks will moon the motorcade? There’s laughter all over social media right now, claiming that quote was a joke.
- Section 93 of the Rainbow 25 Sea to Sea Flag will return home to Key West, Florida to showcase Key West’s “One Human Family” identity and its historic diversity. Section 93 will appear at the Key West City Hall at the corner of White and United Streets on April 19, 2018 during the President’s motorcade, scheduled sometime between 11AM and 1PM. All those in support of Key West’s diversity and gay pride culture are invited to attend. Section 93 was part of the original Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag. Created in 2003, from a concept developed by the late Gregg McGrady, the flag stretched the length of Key West’s Duval Street from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Actually sewn by the creator of the original flag, Gilbert Baker, and hundreds of Key West volunteers, the flag was meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Rainbow Flag as a LGBTQ symbol and diversity within the southernmost city.
- The Key West Business Guild, which “manages” a 100-foot Section of The Rainbow25 Sea to Sea flag refused to allow the section to be used for today’s motorcade. There are a lot of folks unhappy about that decision.
What we don’t know — and what is really frustrating for those who live here
- Are we going to be able to get to work, make it to doctor’s appointments, get to the airport? While these are situations other “presidential towns” face regularly, they are particularly onerous for Key West. We are a tiny place with only one road in and out.
- The motorcade is supposed to go right past the airport — and if South Roosevelt is closed, and the intersection with Bertha and Atlantic is closed, there’s absolutely no way to get to the airport. None. So, even though commercial flights are not supposed to be affected at Key West International Airport, how does one get to and from the airport?
- The entire motorcade route is lined with homes, hotels, small businesses and restaurants. Are they going to be open? Can one even get there? Will Fort Zach be open? That was still up in the air as of this morning, meaning both visitors and staff are tossing a coin. The bad thing about all this hush-hush and potential closings? The people who need a paycheck are going to lose it.
- There are usually a dozen Conch Trains rattling past my house each morning. Today, if my count is right, there have been only a couple. That could mean things are really slow for the tourist venues today. We know for sure water sports and charter flights are shut down until this is over.
So, it’s 11 a.m., and I’m heading over to City Hall to see what’s happening there. Will update on Facebook as I can.
In the meantime, I leave you with this social media post from one of Key West’s young leaders. She makes herself proud, and I think she represents how most of us feel: “Clearly, i am no fan of 45. HOWEVER I have a stupid amount of respect and admiration for THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY – so that being said, I am still really excited to see the presidential motorcade go by and to get to see marine one in the sky. Just wish it was someone nicer on the inside!”