Then on Saturday, thousands of students gathered indoors at the organization’s “Student Action Summit,” where they heard from conservative GOP speakers, including Donald Trump Jr., and cheered loudly as women shot money into the crowd with a cannon.
Photos posted on social media showed Friday’s maskless gala crowd mingling in apparent violation of Palm Beach County’s coronavirus protocols, which require that face coverings be worn inside “all businesses and establishments.” There is an exception for people who are eating and drinking, but the county says that — in those cases — masks should be taken off only for “the shortest practical period of time.”
The county is not allowed to fine individuals for violating this rule, but it can fine businesses that do not enforce the mask mandate.
In recent weeks, journalist Zach Everson reported on other events at Mar-a-Lago — including an election night party — in which attendees appeared to be socializing maskless. But earlier this month, the town of Palm Beach said it had not taken any enforcement actions against Trump’s club.
A spokesman for the Palm Beach Police, which enforces coronavirus rules on the island, told The Washington Post he was checking to see if any enforcement action was taken.
Earlier in the pandemic, Palm Beach County had limited the capacity of restaurants and indoor gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But in September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) removed such limits statewide.
Instead local governments have urged residents not to attend crowded gatherings such as the one at Mar-a-Lago on Friday. The town of Palm Beach, for instance, advises residents to “avoid … crowded spaces with many people nearby and close-contact settings such as close-range conversations.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to questions from The Washington Post, other than to say that neither Eric Trump nor his wife Lara Lea Trump were present at the Mar-a-Lago event.
Thousands of young conservatives gathered at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach for Saturday’s event, where other college and high school students crowded near the stage to listen to speakers such as Trump Jr. and Tucker Carlson.
Photos and video from the event on social media show that the vast majority of the attendees were not wearing masks.
The event reached a high-tension point Saturday night as hundreds of students were left stranded outside the convention center after local authorities stopped allowing students to enter.
Palm Beach County officials, who own and operate the center, blamed the student group for overselling tickets and breaching a 2,000-person-capacity agreement, according to CBS 12 News.
A Turning Point spokesperson told RedState that although there were no initial capacity restrictions, county officials later told the event organizers that capacity would be limited to 50 percent and that masks were required, which TPUSA agreed to and developed an overflow plan.
But Palm Beach County officials blocked students from accessing the lobby once they determined that the main ballroom was at capacity, stranding overflow attendees outside. Turning Point told RedState that these actions left hundreds of students outside “packed like sardines,” provoking chaos, and that it was unable to enforce mask rules and social distancing outside, which the group claimed were enforced inside.
Turning Point did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.
At one point, to ease the tension, Trump Jr. stepped outside to address the crowd.
Inside the convention center, videos show young women, referred to as “Bang Girls” from one of the event’s sponsors, Bang Energy, blasting cash into the cheering crowd of conservative college and high school students.
“Yes, that’s a money gun cause we (heart) capitalism!” wrote Emily Sturge, who self-identifies as a Turning Point ambassador, on her Instagram account.
The images prompted backlash from conservative figures and young activists such as Curtis Houck, who took to Twitter to express outrage.
“THIS is what we’re supposed to believe is the future of the conservative movement and Republican Party?” Houck wrote. “There’s no wiggle room to explain this away or say it’s taken out of context. Don’t talk about Jesus and faith and family then pull this c---.”
The weekend Turning Point events notwithstanding, many groups appear to be listening to the county’s coronavirus guidance: The Palm Beach Daily News’s social calendar shows that many of the island’s biggest charity galas have gone virtual this year.
A survey of that social calendar and town permits shows that Mar-a-Lago’s roster of charity events — already shrunken by backlash to Trump’s politics — is likely to decline further this year because of the pandemic.
Several years ago, The Post counted 49 charity events and other gatherings at Trump’s club. This year, The Post could find just nine such gatherings, including that of Turning Point.
Turning Point was founded in 2012 by Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist and radio host who is known for his remarks that have drawn criticisms, at times downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and rebuking shutdown measures.