A protest organized by the Tea Party against a land deal that would help clean up the Florida Everglades was attended mostly by actors getting paid for their time, the Palm Beach Post's Christine Stapleton reports.
A March 31 Facebook post on a Broward County actors' message board captured by Stapleton advertised for "rally protesters" to "stand behind [a] fence, holding banners or signs that will be provided." It is not clear if the actors or Karen Donohue, who made the original post and is listed as a realtor, knew what they were taking part in.
Donohue did not return requests for comment Friday.
More than 50 actors showed up, Stapleton reports.
The protest was called by the Tea Party of Miami and Florida Citizens Against Waste, which Stapleton says is a "recently formed group that has no contact information on its website and is not registered to do business in Florida."
The land deal the actors were supposed to be protesting would see the state of Florida buy more than 46,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee for an estimated $500 million from the U.S. Sugar Corporation.
That may sound like a lot, but Florida voters just approved an amendment designating real-estate stamp tax funds specifically for environmental preservation.
The deal has been on the table for years. But the window for executing it expires on Oct. 31., and U.S. Sugar has made it known it is no longer interested in selling now that funds are actually available, according to Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen.
The company was not involved in Thursday’s protest, Stapleton says. But Judy Sanchez, the company’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications, told her that the company is “one of many, along with Tea Party, business and other various groups, that support these issues where taxpayer spending is concerned.”
Whoever was behind the "rally" really blew it, according to Adam Swart, the CEO of CrowdsOnDemand.com, a Los Angeles-based group that also puts together protests using actors.
"I think this was done very unprofessionally," he said in an email. "We have a network of over 10,000 folks around the country who participate in this type of event for us. We would never write an ad like that which so explicitly states we're hiring paid protesters for a specific event. The reason we get hired time and again by top tier folks in the political world is our discretion. Our rallies look genuine—not like this one."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.