Rochester is girding for the pomp, protests and gridlock that will accompany President Donald Trump’s visit Thursday for a campaign rally.
Trump will be the star attraction at the Mayo Civic Center at 6:30 p.m. after he attends a private fundraiser at a metro-area hotel. He last visited the state on June 20 for an appearance in Duluth.
Rochester was chosen as Trump’s destination to give a boost to the First District’s Republican congressional candidate, Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth. He’s locked in a tight match with Democrat Dan Feehan of North Mankato. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who now holds the seat, is running for governor.
Other GOP candidates will be there to share the spotlight. Election results in the state could be key to Democrats’ hopes of reclaiming control of the U.S. House and Senate.
The president’s Make America Great Again events are usually raucous and unscripted. At a rally Tuesday in Southaven, Miss., he made headlines by mocking Christine Blasey Ford, who has alleged that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.
Imitating her Senate testimony last week, Trump said, “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How did you get there? I don’t remember. … I don’t know. I don’t know.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that Trump was “stating facts.”
Three local groups that organized a rally and march to counter Trump’s message made a point of holding it far from the Civic Center and ending it before Air Force One’s arrival at Rochester International Airport.
“Our goal is very specifically not to be confrontational,” said Heidi Wilkins, a co-founder of Rochester for Justice.
Participants will meet at noon at Soldiers Memorial Field Park, march through downtown and return to the park.
“We’re in a city of healing,” Wilkins said. “We don’t have time for the rhetoric of hate and division.”
The DFL Party also plans counterprogramming. Candidates including Feehan and Peggy Flanagan, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, will fire up volunteers who plan to knock on voters’ doors Thursday in Rochester.
“Rather than protesting the president’s visit,” said DFL spokesman George Flynn, “we’ve decided to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Good Jobs Nation, a group that promotes union employment, plans to be outside the Civic Center with workers who face layoffs because of the outsourcing of jobs.
“We’re prepared for both [Trump] supporters as well as those protesting,” said Steve Rymer, Rochester’s city administrator.
Streets will be closed around the Civic Center and public transit will be free. The Rochester Public Library, City Hall and Government Center are within the security perimeter in the area around the rally site and will close at 3 p.m.
Temporary flight restrictions could cause airport delays. Trump will depart Minnesota after the rally.