A couple hundred people — waving American flags, singing patriotic tunes, wearing pro-Donald Trump T-shirts and eschewing face masks — gathered in front of the Minnesota State Capitol on Saturday for an event billed as United We Stand & Patriots March for America.
Speakers drew applause with familiar conservative arguments: that mask mandates infringe on citizens’ rights, that the dangers of COVID-19 have been exaggerated, that Trump should be re-elected.
Saturday’s rally also compared left-wing politics focused onracial equity to slavery or the stances of the Ku Klux Klan.
The audience included at least a couple dozen people of color, and several of the speakers were Black.
Among them was Joy Villa, a Los Angeles-based singer well-known on social media as a conservative Black activist.
“We see color, but we don’t make it all about who we are,” Villa said. “They want to reduce Black people to their bodies. I will say it again — slavery is over.”
Villa and several other speakers denounced Black Lives Matter and the protests in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s killing while in police custody.
“White people are the devil, if you listen to Black Lives Matter,” she said.
Deron Slater, director of the Minnesota chapter of BLEXIT, an organization encouraging people of color to leave the Democratic Party, described Democratic politicians in similarly strong terms.
“These people need to be stopped — they have controlled the narrative for far too long,” Slater said. “Now they want to destroy America.”
Slater, who is Black, said he’d been told he’s “not Black” because of his involvement with conservative politics.
“If I’m not Black because I’m here, you can call me white!” he said, drawing cheers.
Twila Brase, a registered nurse and co-founder of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, shared a number of views that conflict with what almost all medical and public health officials say but are popular with many conservatives.
She told the crowd that much of the COVID-19 information provided by experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci is false.
The number of cases has been exaggerated, tests are being conducted incorrectly and possible treatments have been misrepresented, she said.
Face masks, she said, do not help prevent spread of the virus and should be rejected.
“We look at masks as an existential threat to freedom in America,” Brase said. “No more masks!”
A handful of attendees carried semiautomatic long guns.
About 20 counterprotesters stood on the sidelines and engaged in shouting matches with people in the audience.
Two who tried to break through the lines of State Patrol officers surrounding the rally were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and interfering with a permitted assembly, said State Patrol Lt. Kevin Skalsky.