An Oregon photographer wearing a worn Make America Great Again hat set up on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Fla. on Monday morning, kicking off what he plans to be a 30-day sit-down to spread a message of kindness and to fight prejudice.
Casey Derrenger, 41, has been traveling with his dog Jamison since November 2016, stopping to spend a month in public spaces in towns across the country while displaying cardboard signs that read “don’t judge a book by its cover,” “people taking care of people” and “sharing is caring.”
He took his seat in Palm Beach at 8 a.m., steps from Chanel and Tiffany & Co., garnering attention from passersby. He plans to stay until 6 p.m. every day before retreating to another area in town to sleep.
“The thing is that a lot of people judge and this is one of the most judgmental places in our country, so I felt that it was appropriate,” Derrenger said, explaining how he chose this location. “The reason I’m sitting here is because of the name of the street, Worth Avenue. Know your worth.”
Before starting his sit-down, Derrenger said he visited the police department to let officers know he would be on Worth Avenue. “Police were blown away, but there’s nothing they can do. I’m literally unstoppable,” he said. “I know my rights. I don’t ask anybody for anything. This is my message and this is what I’m about.”
By 11 a.m., a handful of shop owners had called the town complaining about Derrenger’s presence. Derrenger said Code Enforcement officers warned him that he can’t have his backpack on the ground, so he put it on his lap, that his business cards can’t be out, so he put them away, and that his signs were too edgy, so he can’t display them except for the one that says “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Police officers also visited and advised him to be on the move around Worth Avenue, constantly changing locations, or to move toward the beach, but Derrenger said those alternatives would defeat the purpose of what he’s doing. He insists he’s not asking anyone for anything or soliciting.
“I understand they’re getting calls and getting pressured,” Derrenger said, referring to Code Enforcement and police. “If it was easy it wouldn’t be fun. I’m going to be here the whole month no matter how difficult they make it.”
Town officials, including police spokesman Michael Ogrodnick, could not be reached Monday for comment.
Two days after Trump won the 2016 election, Derrenger started this effort. His buddy Jason Broom was ashamed to wear the MAGA hat, so Derrenger decided to flaunt it himself. He considers himself to be “moving art” visiting cities in Florida, Colorado and Wisconsin. While in Wisconsin last August, he decided to follow the snowbirds to Palm Beach, where he thinks his message most needs to be heard.
“I feel like I’m the only guy doing anything positive with this hat. I thought it was a silly slogan since the beginning but once he won, the hat became everybody’s regardless of whether you like him,” Derrenger said. “He won. He played the game and he won, period. Do something positive with it and don’t complain. Republican or Democrat, we’re all still American. It’s not like there’s two different countries.”