President Donald Trump attended two major fundraisers on the South Fork on Friday, a $12 million trip that had supporters and protesters lining the streets of his motorcade route — and, on a national scale, prompted business losses for popular fitness clubs owned by the host of one of the events.
After touching down at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton at around noon, Mr. Trump traveled by motorcade to billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross’s waterfront home in Tuckahoe, where he participated in a private roundtable with supporters, who each paid $250,000 toward his joint campaign with the Republican National Committee for the honor.
At around 2:30 p.m., he headed to Joe Farrell’s $39 million Bridgehampton estate, about eight miles away. Mr. Trump gave a one-hour speech and was joined by Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republican National Committee chairpersons and others.
Together the fundraisers raised a total of $12 million, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a tweet on Friday.
Throughout the visit, Mr. Trump was kept under tight wraps. Unlike his visit in August 2018, there was no local media access at Gabreski Airport for his arrival or departure. The president made no stops outside of the fundraisers. Guests who attended Mr. Farrell’s fundraiser were required to leave their phones in their cars or shut them off during the event, some attendees said.
The guests at the second fundraiser began to arrive at around 11 a.m. and parked in a grassy lot on Horsemill Lane, off Mecox Lane, where they were shuttled to Mr. Farrell’s house.
The Press was extended an early invitation to the fundraiser, but editors rejected conditions set by Mr. Farrell: to keep guests anonymous, and not take photos at the private event, where no press was permitted. It was later withdrawn.
The New York Post managed to report on Mr. Trump’s speech at the Farrell mansion, although the publication did not say how it got the information. The president spoke about backlash from the fundraiser, his silent local supporters, and his relationships with foreign leaders to a crowd of 500 people, The Post reported.
Mr. Ross’s ownership of fitness clubs SoulCycle and Equinox came into the national spotlight this past week when news spread that he was hosting the fundraiser for Mr. Trump. Club members, including a few celebrities, scorned Mr. Ross for his presidential support and said online that they ended their memberships.
At the fundraiser, Mr. Trump commented on that, saying, “Steve Ross got into a little bit of trouble this week, I said, ‘Steve, welcome to the world of politics!’” according to The Post.
Regarding his visit, he said, “I love coming to the Hamptons, I know the Hamptons well, everyone here votes for me, but they won’t admit it.”
Two days later, The Post reported that many of his local supporters said they were “in the closet” secret supporters, because of the fear that anti-Trump residents would boycott their businesses if their opinion was known.
“People have really strong opinions here, and if you go around wearing a MAGA hat, you really need to fear physical violence,” a Westhampton-based builder said anonymously to The Post.
In response to that article, a list was shared on Twitter of everyone between Southampton Town and Montauk who donated to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, which is publicly accessible on the Federal Election Commission website. The list came from Dave Quast, senior director of strategic communications for FTI Consulting and a communication and journalism adjunct professor, and it received thousands of likes and retweets.
“Apparently some business owners in The Hamptons want to keep their support for Trump on the [down low],” Mr. Quast tweeted on August 11. “Later today I’ll post lists of everyone from Southampton to Montauk who contributed to Trump’s 2016 campaign. And I’ll throw in Fire Island just for fun.”
In fact, there were numerous groups of supporters of Mr. Trump gathered in various spots between Westhampton and Bridgehampton, including at Gabreski Airport and along County Road 39 in Southampton. In other places, supporters mixed with protesters without incident.
While Mr. Trump shook hands with the wealthy on Friday, several hundred protesters gathered at the Water Mill Green, near the windmill on the corner of Route 27 and Halsey Lane, for a rally organized by Long Island political activist groups.
“I’d like [the people driving by] to see that the East End is for American values,” said Kathryn Szoka, co-chair of the Progressive East End Reformers. “We want to support our democracy.”
She added, “We are united against hate and in favor of drawing grassroots organizations together to mobilize changes, come 2020.”
The protest was not the first for Lisa Votino, a community organizer who brought her 6-year-old daughter, Lily. Her sign addressed the minors kept at migrant detention centers, and read, “Are we great yet?’” The sign was personal to her, she said, because she volunteered with asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico.
“Mr. Trump’s slogan is ‘Make America Great Again,’ and I see nothing great happening right now,” Ms. Votino said. “I see kids in cages, I see logistics, policies and tweets that have real repercussions on the grounds, and I’ve been witness to that many times.”
Rolling road closures took place along the president’s route, which bypassed the protest and many others who waited in anticipation along County Road 39 to see his motorcade.
Once Mr. Trump passed by the blocked off roads, they were opened back up to regular traffic, though residual backups persisted to the east and west of the temporary closure.
The Water Mill Green was not the only place protesters let their voices be heard. At the intersection of Pauls Lane and Halsey Lane in Bridgehampton, the latter of which Mr. Farrell lives on, a group of sign-carrying protesters gradually formed, joining supporters and curious residents who wanted to catch a glimpse of the president.
Two friends, Mary Sculley of East Hampton and Randy Culpepper of Bridgehampton, spent the morning riding their bicycles around the Bridgehampton neighborhood while wearing “Dump Trump” and “Trump = Racist Pig” signs around their necks.
“I’m just going to wave. It’s a friendly protest,” Mr. Culpepper said, when asked what he planned to do when Mr. Trump passed by. “I’d love for him to see this and know that these are not all supporters out here waiting to see him.”
A Bridgehampton family made signs out of ripped-up pieces of cardboard with messages about keeping immigrant families together.
Staff writers Greg Wehner and Jennifer Corr contributed to this story.