Take a guess at the total donated — in just four days — to a liberal activist group so that it can fly a “Trump Baby” balloon near one of Donald Trump’s golf courses in the United States.
The total raised in that time period: $23,693. But there are problems.
The “Trump Baby” is a 20-foot high balloon that protesters recently flew over London in response to the president’s visit to the U.K to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May, the Queen of England, and others.
On a GoFundMe page, the American “Baby Trump Tour” is described as a collaborative effort by two men from New Jersey, Hillsborough activist Didier Jiminez-Castro and Branchburg’s Jim Girvan, organizer of the People’s Motorcade, an anti-Trump group.
As the stateside organizers “trumpet” their financial intake — they more than quintupled their initial ask of $4,500 and committed to buying additional balloons to take on a coast-to-coast “Baby Trump Tour” — it seems they may have neglected an important matter.
“We have not been officially contacted by [Jiminez-Castro, Girvan, or their representatives],” Judy Sullivan, the Bedminster Township’s registered municipal clerk-administrator, told LifeZette on Tuesday.
“My police department has questions as well,” Sullivan added.
Why is Bedminster, New Jersey, so important?
Bedminster is home to Trump National Golf Club, which the president regularly visits. Assorted protesters and protest groups often show up during his visits, including members of People’s Motorcade. Bedminster is also the location where the balloon group initially promised, on Facebook and elsewhere, that it would be flying the balloon when donations started rolling in.
“I got together with local organizers of the People’s Motorcade and we agreed we need to bring ‘Baby Trump’ to Bedminster where he plays golf during the summer,” they said on the GoFundMe page.
There is a snag, though.
“Obstruction violations,” said Barry Streisfeld, obstruction evaluation lead for the FAA’s Eastern Service Area in Jamaica, Queens, New York. Streisfeld reviews temporary or permanent structures that could impact any airports.
“It’s like telling me they want to fly a balloon over the White House,” he said in response to an inquiry about whether Bedminster’s temporary flight restrictions could be problematic if the balloon were flown during a presidential visit. “It’s not going to happen.”
“When someone wants to raise up a crane or build a building, wind turbines, antenna towers, they file aeronautical studies on a public website, and then we have various entities review that for impacts,” he explained. “We’ve even evaluated ships coming up the Hudson River if they exceeded a certain height above the water,” he added.
“It’s like telling me they want to fly a balloon over the White House. It’s not going to happen.”
A final decision on such a matter might lie with the section of the FAA that deals with air traffic, he also noted.
Temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) are in place in a 30-mile radius when the president is visiting, and even tighter security measures apply to the 10-mile inner ring surrounding Trump National. “Morristown Airport and the surrounding airspace is locked down like a vice grip for Trump’s arrivals and departures,” as USA Today and North Jersey.com explained.
So the group may have a few hurdles here that impede the big promise.
Though tethered balloons may not violate airspace, “they would have to go through an approval process with the FAA,” Heather Williams of the National Business Aviation Association told LifeZette on Wednesday.
“If it’s an operation, especially during a time that the president would be there, then they would need to talk to the FAA about … authorization. The FAA has jurisdiction over the airspace,” Williams added.
In addition to securing clearance from the FAA, the group would also need to ensure that the promise to fly the balloon near the golf course is in keeping with local guidelines and ordinances.
Sullivan, the Bedminster township clerk/administrator, shared other points that may still require some ironing out, including where exactly the group hopes to fly the balloon, whether a march would be involved, and other safety-related variables.
“When there’s been any kind or a protest or congregation of people, we have a First Amendment rights area where people are allowed to be,” said Sullivan.
“With the president [traveling to] Bedminster on a regular basis, last year when he started coming, we had groups that wanted to [be here]. Some were anti-Trump, some were pro-Trump, and they wanted an area to express their free speech, so we determined we should create a safe area, a public area, where they could do that.”
The First Amendment rights area Sullivan referenced is at the intersection of Route 206 and Lamington Road in Bedminster. The area is cordoned off with barricades and is set back from the highway.
Sullivan was to meet with Bedminster’s zoning officer Tuesday afternoon to come up with a “punch list” of questions they will be asking the group, whenever the group gets around to asking whether it can actually fly the balloon in Bedminster as Trump is visiting — as it promised its donors.
“I’ve been contacted by three or four news agencies asking questions, yet the group doing this has not contacted us,” Sullivan told LifeZette.
“We heard that it was being shipped over from England and that they expect it to be here some time in August.”
What the group hopes to achieve by flying the “Trump Baby” balloon in the first place is a matter of debate. As its members said on a GoFundMe page, “we are dedicated to pushing back against Donald Trump and his administration’s assault on our democracy and the American values we hold so dear.”
Apparently, the “unpaid resistance,” as they call themselves, are laboring under the impression that the sight of a monstrous toy balloon floating above a New Jersey town will seal the deal for those who aren’t quite sure where they stand on weighty matters of America’s domestic and foreign policy. Perhaps “Baby Trump,” they seem to hope, will sway onlookers to see things liberals’ way.
Or perhaps they’re aiming to upset Trump himself in some way. Or something.
The balloon has a sneering face and printed-on chest hair, but in terms of its size, it’s hardly monstrous. It’s actually about 20 feet tall, according to CNBC.
For a thumbnail comparison, the average hot air balloon is about 70 feet high.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.