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North Florida Trump Flotilla

The stirring sight of hundreds of boats cruising down the Intracoastal Waterway waving American flags and colorful signs thrilled thousands of people May 16 – everyone, it seems, except the local media.

Although the media had been notified in advance, there was scant coverage and even that brushed off the event.

The display was a boat parade in support of President Donald Trump, sponsored by the Trump Supporters Network of Duval & Nassau.

Sabrina Wheeler, a member of the network, told Eye on Jacksonville that the group has more than 3,500 members.

All it took was a notice of the upcoming event on the group’s Facebook page to get an enormous turnout.

One media account said about 50 boats took part, Wheeler said.

Esther Lyle Byrd, the founder of the group, told a local radio station that a man standing on shore said he counted more than 1,000 boats passing.

After protests, and to its credit, Channel 4 changed its brief story to better reflect reality.

First Coast News, which had room Tuesday for a story on the reopening of the Riverside Arts Market, did a 90-word story and a 16-second video on the spectacular first-of-its-kind Jacksonville event.

A search of a small local newspaper found a story on a similar parade in Jupiter but none on the local event.

“To be fair, none of us knew beforehand how many people would participate,” Byrd said.

But the event got national coverage from the Breitbart News Network. Eric Trump saw the story and mentioned it on Twitter, and the president tweeted his approval (without mentioning Jacksonville), saying “Thank you very much to our beautiful ‘boaters.’ I will never let you down! #MAGA

After this success, the group plans another rally for downtown Jacksonville.

It will be held June 14 – Trump’s birthday.

Participants plan to meet at the Dames Point Bridge, set sail at 11 a.m. and travel 26 miles down the St. Johns River to the Fruit Cove area. A party will be held afterward.

Anyone who wants to participate is encouraged to register here.

The Trump supporters group has been active for months and stages sign-waving events in the two counties. Since an incident in which a Trump-hater ran through a tent being used by the local Republican Party to register voters last February, an unofficial group of armed people with walkie-talkies has formed to protect demonstrators, Wheeler said.

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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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