Trump Supporters Gather Near Mar-a-Lago to Support Former President After Indictment
Trump Supporters Gather Near Mar-a-Lago to Support Former President After Indictment

By John Haughey

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Debbie Macchia comes to the Southern Boulevard Bridge to wave flags, sing patriotic songs, and enjoy a fellowship she’s never felt before.

Less than 100 yards away is Mar-a-Lago, with its bougainvillea-draped pink walls and Spanish tile rooftops. Its waterfront coconut palms sway in the bright, breezy afternoon sun.

Somewhere within the 17-acre residence-resort, the former president of the United States is presumably conferring with attorneys and family, planning strategy for his April 4 appearance in Manhattan to face 30-something charges handed down by a grand jury on March 30.

But if Donald Trump ever has any fears, ever needs any support, ever has any doubts, he only need look through his backyard to the Southern Boulevard Bridge, a three-quarter mile span that traverses Lake Worth Lagoon, the Intercoastal Waterway, and Bingham Island, to link West Palm Beach with Palm Beach.

There he will see Macchia, among a cadre that has sustained a near-constant presence on the bridge for nearly seven years.

Hard Core ‘Bridge People’

Debbie Macchia, of Boynton Beach, Fla., and her friend, Mark, take a break from flying their Trump flags on the Southern Boulevard Bridge between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach, Fla., on March 31, 2023. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)

“We are the ‘Bridge People,’” she said, before clarifying, “We’re the hard-core ‘Bridge People.’ He knows us.”

As the high midday sun slid west, Mar-a-Lago’s windows flash-blinking and its lagoon-side lawn green and empty, Macchia was among a dozen Trump supporters on the bridge March 31, letting the former president know they had his back or, at least, they were standing within eyesight of his backyard and watching closely.

There were twice the media than Trump supporters on the bridge. Reporters from Politico, NewsNation, and Reuters were there. Correspondents and cameras from two dozen TV news outlets were milling about, interviewing the same people waving flags, pledging allegiance, singing the national anthem, praying, and inducing honks, and the universal finger gesture, from passing motorists on the two-lane bridge.

More Trump supporters were on the bridge the night before, Macchia said, and Trump sent them pizza. More would show later that day after people got off work. There would be many, many more, she predicted, on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s kind of a word-of-mouth thing,” she said, noting when Trump on March 19 announced he’d be arrested on March 21, the bridge was thronged. If Trump called, the bridge and roadways leading into and out of Palm Beach would be lined by his supporters.

But he hasn’t called since. Not yet.

So, Macchia said, the ‘Bridge People’ will man their posts, remain on station as always, and be there no matter what happens.

“I never paid much attention to politics,” she said, but all that changed in 2016 “once Trump was running and the differences started to come out” between him and the gaggle of standard-fare politicians he was campaigning against in the Republican presidential primary campaign.

Macchia, of Boynton Beach, Fla., was hooked.

“Now,” she said with emphasis, “I’m engaged.”

‘People Like Me’

Chris Xenos, a former “hardcore punk” musician of Margate, Fla., was also never interested in politics until former President Barack Obama lighted his fire and he became an ardent Trump supporter. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)

Chris Xenos of Margate was also never interested in politics, the former “hardcore punk” musician credited former President Barack Obama for lighting his fire.

“I was never a big patriot or anything like that, but after eight years of [Trump’s] predecessor, it pushed me to be one,” he said, saying anger over what he called Obama’s “anti-American’ policies spurred his interest in finding alternates.

When Trump launched his campaign, “I had an intuition” about him, Xenos said, and it turned out to be right.

“This is a business,” he said, waving at all around him. “It’s time to run it like a business. [Trump] was the only guy who put his own money where his mouth is.”

Xenos grew so engrossed with Trump that in September 2016, he quit his job and worked as an unpaid volunteer for the Trump campaign.

“I had to volunteer for the campaign. I had to,” he said, noting that he’d never before contemplated working for a political campaign.

Trump’s 2017 inauguration “was emotional for me. People like me made it happen,” Xenos said.

He is not a regular among the ‘Bridge People,’ but comes at least once every three months, like he did this day, taking off from work—“and I never take off from work”—to let Trump know he’s got support.

“Because I believe in my guy. I’d take a bullet for my guy,” Xenos said.

‘A Team That Doesn’t Quit’

Derek Arnold of Ocala, Fla., live podcasts while waving his flags on Southern Boulevard Bridge near Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 31, 2023. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)

Cindee Brown, of Lake Worth Beach, is also not a bridge regular. But this day—and maybe days to come—the bridge is calling to her.

“I can see Mar-a-Lago from my house. I was watching the news, and I said, ‘What am I doing here?’” she said, her skin reddening in the bright 85-degree breeze.

“We have so many problems in this county. This is bull,” Brown said of the presumed charges against Trump. “Bull,” she repeated, except it had a second word attached.

Derek Arnold drove 240 miles from Ocala to fly his flags and lead prayers at the bridge. He does so often during the six months of the year that he lives in Florida. For the other six months, he lives in New Hampshire. “But I go everywhere” across the country in his pickup truck with U.S. flags flapping from its tail bed.

He leads a group called Nationwide Freedom Family and wants to be “a bridge to connections” with people. “Under the Constitution,” he said, “we all have the same rights.”

What country have we become, he asked, if a man with American flags and a flag with the name of a former president can get arrested at a public library for eating lunch at one of its outside picnic tables?

That’s what happened to him on March 20 at a library across the street from Trump’s golf course in Doral, Arnold said.

He won’t stop supporting Trump, Arnold said. He said on April 13, he will lead a “fellowship of freedom” at the bridge and is inviting people to “gather together in fellowship to pray and support our country.”

Just then—3:31 p.m. EST—Eric Trump drove by, slowing down, sliding down his window, giving the ‘Bridge People’ a thumbs-up.

“We are the team that doesn’t quit, doesn’t back down,” Arnold said.

There would be more people later. There would be more this weekend, the ‘Bridge People’ said.

They said they would be on the bridge when Trump leaves Mar-a -Lago for New York, his five black SUV security phalanx a familiar sight, and they will be there when he returns, cheering him, waving his flags, relishing his appreciative waves.

“It’s history, bro,” Xenos said. “This is history.”

Nodding to Mar-a-Lago, its pink walls a soft rose in the setting sun, he said: “The man who lives there, he just made history. I’d take a bullet for the guy.”


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