With a flourish of a sword made of tin foil and cardboard, 55-year-old Paula Pope challenged every driver who passed the Southwest 34th Street sidewalk she was standing on.
“Arg, are you informed?”
The two signs Pope, a protester, was holding — “Vote Ted Yoho out!!” and “‘freedom caucus’…my arse” — wasn’t what grabbed the eye of the 4:30 p.m. Friday commuters.
It was the pirate’s outfit she described as “clothes I should have donated to Goodwill years ago.”
About 40 people, dressed in their best impression of pirates, stood outside the offices of Crime Prevention Security Systems, located at 4701 SW 34th St., holding signs and singing songs.
“We tax the poor to feed the rich and promise you great jobs/ You silly fools, that’s not the rules/ You can eat the slop of our hogs! Hey yo ho yo ho a pirate’s life for me,” the group, organized by Alachua County Labor Coalition, sang.
The labor coalition said Rep. Ted Yoho is prioritizing his donors over his constituents. Security company owners John A. Pastore Jr. and Randi Elrad spent $10,000 on Yoho’s campaigns since he was first elected, making them one of the largest contributors in Alachua County, lead organizer Jeremiah Tattersall said.
He said the protesters want Yoho to participate in more in-person town halls, instead of town halls over the phone. Tattersall said the tele-town halls are curated because only certain people are invited and only some can ask questions. He said town halls are not a representation of citizens’ real issues. Yoho’s last in-person town hall was in April, according to Alligator archives.
“We are here to demand through his largest contributors, because he listens to them, another town hall,” Tattersall said.
Yoho’s office did not respond to the Alligator’s request for comment.
Protesters want the same opportunity to be heard by Yoho as his donors, said Shelia Payne, a ACLC staff member.
Payne said she works for the Veterans for Peace organization and said the group has never met with Yoho on military issues. She said she has tried to contact Yoho by emailing, calling and visiting his office continuously without much success for eight years.
“It’s frustration,” Payne said. “It’s not being heard and not being represented.”
The labor coalition organized another protest at a company owned by Yoho supporters, Exactech, in July 2017.
Crime Prevention Security Systems sent a cease and desist letter to protest organizers Jan. 17. Bobby McAfee, the company’s marketing director, wrote in an email that the company expects the protest will be peaceful and said the group had the “right to have fun and play dress-up.” He did not comment on the letter.
An hour and a half after the protest began, as the sprinklers went off in front of Crime Prevention Security Systems, Tattersall addressed the protesters. He told the group they would organize more protests against Yoho’s financial contributors.
“We are here to highlight how broken our democratic system is in which contributors like the co-owners of Crime Prevention Systems have access while us, the skallywag landwellers here, don’t,” Tattersall said. “Yoho, he’s a product of this broken democratic system.”