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'Baby Trump' balloon makes an appearance at Florida rally — with its own security team

Samantha J. Gross, Miami Herald on

Published in Political News

SUNRISE, Fla. -- President Donald Trump arrived at his self-described "homecoming" rally at a hockey arena in suburban Broward County on Tuesday with an escort that included armored vehicles, a counterassault team and Secret Service agents.

The 20-foot-tall, world-famous Baby Trump balloon was there too, as part of a Democratic "unwelcoming" committee hosted by the state party. And it turned out, Baby Trump had a security detail, too.

The balloon, one of six "cloned" from the original balloon crafted by British artist Matthew Bonner in 2018, was carefully monitored by police officers -- plus a group of volunteers who are specially trained to deescalate crowds who may get boisterous when they behold the bright orange, diaper-wearing, cellphone-clutching figure.

The balloon was attacked earlier this month by a man who rushed forward and knifed it during the president's visit to watch the Alabama vs. LSU college football game, leaving it half deflated on the ground.

"Baby Trump has gotten viciously attacked, and that's just not respectful," said Rochelle Lessner, a retired attorney from Hollywood and designated volunteer bodyguard for the Baby Trump balloon. "I donated $50 to bring him here."

The balloon was transported from its home in Palm Beach County -- Wellington, not Mar-a-Lago -- in a cargo van with a lifted roof to accommodate its size. Mark Offerman, 46, of Wellington, a longtime Democratic activist, has been bringing the balloon to events in Florida starting with a September 2018 rally for Puerto Rico outside the president's Palm Beach residence.

 

Florida's Baby Trump has since made the rounds to various events and rallies accompanied by the volunteers.

At Tuesday's protest, Florida Democratic Party staffer Chris Hill brought volunteers together like the leader of a military brigade to go over their assignments.

"We need you to be the Secret Service for Baby Trump," he told the group of volunteers, who including a retired attorney, a group of teen girls wearing impeachment T-shirts and a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty in a green dress. "If things start to escalate, don't make eye contact. If people 'bro pump' with their chest, don't engage on that level."

Offerman stood a few feet off, directing another group of volunteers with a megaphone.

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