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Protesters target Rick Scott’s visit

By BOB MUDGE

STAFF WRITER

VENICE — A Republican candidate for statewide office can always count on a big turnout for a campaign event in the Venice area, and Gov. Rick Scott received one Monday.

But most of the people waiting outside Mojos Real Cuban, 1617 South U.S. 41 Bypass, weren’t there to show their support for Scott’s run for the U.S. Senate.

They were there to rally support against him, largely because of the state’s current water woes: blue-green algae in South Florida and red tide along the Southwest Florida coast.

Elizabeth Stone said the turnout was a product of social media, with Scott’s planned visit shared among Indivisible Venice, Englewood Indivisible, the Southwest Florida Clean Water Movement, Toxic#18 and Red Tide Watch Manasota Key, among others.

A number of members of the various groups wore shirts showing their affiliation.

Scott entered the restaurant through the back door roughly 20 minutes after his advertised noon arrival time, mingled a few minutes inside with supporters and exited the same way.

He didn’t give a speech or take questions, attendees said.

By doing that, he avoided seeing the protest signs being waved in front of the restaurant and along the bypass, drawing honks from passing cars.

On and off for about 45 minutes before Scott’s arrival there had been chants of “Red Tide Rick has got to go” and “Red Tide Rick is making us sick.”

When protesters learned Scott had entered via the back door, they started yelling “Coward” and “This is what democracy looks like.”

Phil Ruffini, who was wearing a Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence T-shirt, said he

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, mingles with supporters at Mojos Real Cuban on Monday afternoon. He got a warm welcome inside the restaurant but outside a crowd protested his visit.

SUN PHOTOS BY ADAM HUTCHINSON

Members of Englewood Indivisible hold signs spelling out a protest poem.

thought most of the people protesting would agree that education, health care and gun control are the key issues in the midterm election.

He said he hopes that after the 2016 election the people protesting Scott’s visit “now realize that their vote counts.”

But he had a more immediate concern.

“I haven’t had a charter in three weeks because of this (red tide) crap,” said Ruffini, a Venice-based charter boat captain.

He had just concluded a conversation with John Citara, who was wearing a hazmat suit and rebreather in the noontime heat.

“I can take the heat if it means making a difference,” he said.

He said he was at the protest because of his sons, Shayne, 13, and Gage, 5. They’re all environmental warriors, he said.

“We’re stepping up for clean water and clean air,” he said.

Toxic water has killed tens of thousands of sea creatures, he said. If humans don’t clean it, “we’re all going to die next,” he said.

Win or lose, Scott will be governor until January. However, Stone doesn’t expect him to use the remainder of his term to reduce the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee, which is dispersing the blue-green algae throughout the southern part of the state.

Kathy Surprenant said the algae are also feeding the red tide bloom that has been plaguing the Venice area for months.

An occasional whiff of it could be detected near Mojos on Monday as Scott’s campaign bus pulled out of the adjacent shopping center around 1 p.m.

Scott supporters formed a gantlet to ensure safe passage into Mojos, but the governor used the rear entrance instead.

SUN PHOTOS BY ADAM HUTCHINSON

The crowd of Scott supporters awaits the arrival of the governor/candidate at Mojos in Venice Monday.

John Citara wore a hazmatstyle suit and rebreather to protest Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign appearance in Venice Monday.

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