It’s Saturday morning at the corner of US-1 and Oakland Park, and there are flags waving, cars honking and signs thrust into the air. At first glance, it seems the tea party has returned to its spot at Coral Ridge Mall — but drive up closer to the crowd, and the corner has taken a 180-degree turn.
It’s a rally for Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris.
“[I’m] thinking of my children, of wanting someone that can speak the truth, that can speak coherently and create full sentences,” laughed Leonard Heal-Rodriguez, the founder of the rally. “All it takes is one action, and how amazing it is that not only have we taken that one corner, we’ve taken all four corners.”
A month ago, the escrow accountant for a law firm decided he had enough of hearing his Democrat friends complaining on Facebook about the state of the country. He made a post that he would be at the corner to show support for the Biden-Harris ticket and invited whoever else wanted to join.
“I just thought if two people show up, that’s wonderful,” he said. “I had all intentions of being out there with a couple of my friends and that’s how it started.”
More than two people showed up on the first Saturday. By the third Saturday, the crowd had grown to 62 participants. Heal-Rodriguez purchased 15 more flags and had more posters printed for the influx. The group is now expanding to other corners at Coral Ridge and will be adding a caravan to drive to the beach and back.
This isn’t the first time the LGBT community has taken over the corner. In 2016, after the Pulse shooting, a local gay lawyer started weekly Love Always Wins rallies that drew hundreds of attendees.
Stephanie Steinberg found out about the rally on Facebook and joined. Now, she has her own rallies scheduled in Deerfield Beach on Sunday mornings from 9:30 - 11 a.m.
“We get honking constantly, waving, thumbs up the whole time,” she said. “It’s very rewarding as a Biden-Harris supporter to see other Biden-Harris supporters interacting with each other, even if they’re just driving by.”
Steinberg retired after being an advocate for banning indoor smoking in Colorado. When she moved to Florida three years ago, she was shocked by the political culture — she remembers seeing the Confederate flags flying in North Florida, the road rage in South Florida, and the seeming lack of interest by the people around her to recycle properly or be eco-conscious.
“We need to be here,” she said. “We have to be in places where no one is speaking up, where people are being silenced, and you have to be out in public and let people at least hear you, that you’re present in your life.”
Both Steinberg and Heal-Rodriguez plan to keep up their rallies every weekend until the election, weather permitting. Heal-Rodriguez is also adding voter awareness to his mission, as the Coral Ridge Mall is a popular early voting location. He’ll be spreading the word about early voting and mail-in ballots as alternatives to in-person voting on Election Day, for those who are interested.
“We can’t continue this for another four years. This has united us and this is what our country is about, was about, and will continue to be about once we elect Biden into presidency,” Heal-Rodriguez said. While John Ramos, a co-organizer of the event, added: “The bottom line is by doing these rallies we’re hoping to increase the enthusiasm level, increase voter turnout, and motivate people.”
The Fort Lauderdale rally is Saturdays from 9 - 10:30 a.m. at the corner of US-1 and Oakland Park Boulevard. Visit TRUTH OVER LIES - Biden Harris 2020 on Facebook for more information. The Deerfield Beach rally is Sundays from 9:30 to 11 a.m. by the CVS at 2 S. Federal Highway. Visit Patriots for Biden by the Beach on Facebook for more information.