Activists for women’s rights and other causes are preparing for large marches and rallies in Minneapolis and St. Paul on Friday and Saturday in conjunction with similar events nationwide, all motivated by opposition to the views of incoming president Donald Trump.
On Wednesday night, St. Paul police officers attended a training session of more than 100 people who will serve as volunteer marshals for Saturday’s women’s march to the Minnesota State Capitol. And all week, activists have been making signs and plans for that event, as well as for a march planned Friday in Minneapolis focused on a broad range of issues.
The marshal-training session stood in stark contrast to the department’s experience six months ago, when its special operations unit ducked rocks and bottles during a confrontation with protesters on Interstate 94.
Saturday’s women’s march is one of many planned across the nation in response to Trump’s inauguration Friday. The biggest will take place in Washington, D.C. The march in St. Paul will be the largest of several planned in Minnesota cities, including Duluth and Rochester.
St. Paul Police Cmdr. Steve Frazer said thousands of people are expected at Saturday’s event, which will begin at 11 a.m. at St. Paul College and proceed to the State Capitol, where a noon rally will be held.
Speakers will include new state Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minneapolis; explorer Ann Bancroft; U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.; Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, and civil rights activist Nekima Levy-Pounds, who is running against Hodges for mayor.
Organizer Bethany Bradley said the slogan for the women’s march is “justice, equality and human rights,” and the issues include supporting Planned Parenthood, legal abortion and LGBT rights.
It’s crucial to draw a good crowd, said Alicia Donahue, another organizer. “Our purpose is to come out in numbers too great for our new administration to ignore on their first day in office,” she said.
Fewer than 100 St. Paul officers will be assigned to Saturday’s event, but hundreds more will be available if needed, Frazer said.
“We could care less what their personal message is,” he said. “Our goal is to help them express themselves in a safe manner.”
The Friday afternoon march and rally in Minneapolis aim to protest Trump’s views on issues ranging from immigration to unions to climate change to American Indian policy to women’s rights. Minneapolis police said they’re preparing for about 2,000 people. About 70 peace and justice organizations have endorsed the march, which will set off at 2:30 p.m. from Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street, wind through south Minneapolis and end up at Minneapolis City Hall for a 5 p.m. rally.
Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME Local 3800 at the University of Minnesota, was one of the speakers Wednesday at a news conference in front on Minneapolis City Hall to lay out Friday’s march.
She said organizers plan a peaceful march and rally with no civil disobedience.
Seventy-five to 100 police officers are assigned to the events, with more available if needed, said Assistant Police Chief Kris Arneson. They will help marchers move easily through intersections and facilitate movement of traffic leaving downtown on Friday afternoon, she said.
Meredith Aby-Keirstead, who is in charge of security for Friday’s demonstration, said its purpose is to build “a large coalition” that can work together in the next four years.
She said she has not seen such positive local response to a demonstration since the early days of the antiwar protests against the Iraq war in 2003.
Friday’s march is expected to be bolstered by a contingent of American Indians upset over Trump’s support for a North Dakota pipeline opposed by the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and environmentalists. Their “Black Snake Resistance” march will join the main demonstration.
Many activists will attend both marches. This week, many gathered at community centers, churches, coffee shops and other venues across the metro area to make signs for the rallies.
At Wednesday night’s marshal training, police addressed Saturday’s volunteer marshals.
“It’s really an honor to be here tonight and to be part of the dialogue,” St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell told the volunteers.
He said his department had faced “an unprecedented level of First Amendment issues” last year and had learned a lot since the protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile last summer.
The women’s march organizers “have set the gold standard on how to organize a march and rally,” Cmdr. Frazer told the volunteers.
When he was finished, the activists gave him a warm round of applause.