President Donald Trump is coming to town next week for a campaign rally that is sure to draw thousands to downtown Minneapolis — a visit that prompted a disappointing response from the city’s top elected official.
Mayor Jacob Frey could have said that the city would provide security to make sure that supporters and opponents of the president are safe and that fundamental rights of free speech are upheld. He could have simply noted, as his city coordinator did, that officials are expecting protests outside Target Center. He could have added, if he felt the need, that he shares many sentiments with the president’s critics, while assuring citizens of varying views that his staff is planning for the event and coordinating with other public agencies as they did during the Super Bowl and Final Four.
Instead, after the Oct. 10 rally was announced, the mayor and other city leaders implied that they’d rather the president and his supporters stay home. Frey said that while he would typically welcome a visit from a sitting president, Trump’s “actions have been reprehensible and his rhetoric has made it clear that he does not value the perspectives or rights of Minneapolis’ diverse communities.”
“Our entire city will stand not behind the president, but behind the communities and people who continue to make our city — and this country — great,” Frey said. “While there is no legal mechanism to prevent the president from visiting, his message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.”
City Council President Lisa Bender echoed Frey’s statements, saying Trump’s “hate is not welcome in our community, but we cannot stop the visit.”
“I know this event will cause stress and fear — the city will do all we can, and ask for support, in keeping everyone safe,” she said.
Trump has done much to exacerbate the nation’s deep divisions, and the Star Tribune Editorial Board has repeatedly taken him to task during his nearly three years in office. Yet he’s still the sitting president, duly elected under this nation’s laws. And whether one supports or opposes the occupant of the White House, the office deserves the respect of all Americans.
Frey and Bender should also recognize that they represent all Minneapolis residents — not just those who support their party or preferred candidates or officeholders.
Trump’s rallies nearly always attract large, enthusiastic crowds — including in Minnesota. The Minneapolis rally will be the president’s fourth visit to the state in the past 16 months. He attended a Tax Day event in Burnsville in April, and visited Duluth and Rochester in 2018. The Rochester event drew an estimated 11,000 people.
Trump narrowly lost Minnesota in 2016 and has vowed to win the state in 2020. His campaign strategists know that news media coverage of his Minnesota visits is also closely followed in western Wisconsin counties that helped him capture the state in 2016 — and the Minneapolis rally will no doubt attract attendees from surrounding states.
Under a national spotlight, Frey and Bender had an opportunity to rise above partisan politics and showcase Minneapolis as a welcoming community — even for those with whom they disagree. It’s a shame they chose to convey a very different message.