The flurry of texts and e-mails among Minneapolis-based activists started immediately after President Donald Trump announced his next Minnesota rally would be in their city. Within hours an event was posted on Facebook: “Dump Trump! Trump Not Welcome in Minneapolis!”
For his fourth visit to the state in 16 months, the president chose a Democratic bastion that hasn’t elected a Republican mayor in nearly half a century and is represented by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who has dubbed herself the president’s “biggest nemesis.”
Trump’s rally at the Target Center on Oct. 10 will put the nation’s political divide into high relief, something neither side sees as an accident. The city-owned facility sits in a state House district that Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016, garnering just under 13% to Clinton’s 78%.
“The president is absolutely not afraid to go right into the belly of the beast and make sure people are aware of the successes our country has had under his leadership,” said state GOP Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.
She added that the selection of Minneapolis allows for a stark contrast between Trump’s message of “believing in America, fighting for the American dream, fighting hard to create more jobs” vs. Omar’s “anti-American sentiment and rhetoric.”
Partisan sniping aside, Carnahan and her Democratic counterpart, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin, both noted there are logistical benefits to staging a rally in the state’s largest city.
The Twin Cities has the largest media market in the state, so the president gets the “biggest bang for his buck” in reaching television news viewers, Martin said. That media market spills across the border into western Wisconsin, he said, adding “this is as much of a play for Wisconsin as it is for Minnesota.”
Carnahan said the selection of the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis means Trump can pack in a crowd of more than 19,000. His largest event so far in Minnesota, at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center, was estimated to draw more than 11,000 people.
Given the House impeachment inquiry, Martin said it’s logical that the president wants to marshal supporters and show that people are rallying behind him. But he said the choice to make Minneapolis the backdrop at this particular point in time “doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
“He has chosen the most Democratic city in the state, and one of the most Democratic cities in the country,” Martin said.
Trump national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered an explanation that addressed the state broadly.
“No Republican nominee for president has won Minnesota since 1972, but in 2016, President Trump came within just 1.5% of winning the state,” McEnany said, adding Trump’s event will celebrate how he has created jobs and cut taxes.
The wide network of Democratic and anti-Trump activists in Minneapolis, who have sprung into action to plan protests, will be painting a much less sunny picture of the president’s accomplishments.
The Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee happened to have a meeting Thursday after the rally was announced and decided to create the “Dump Trump!” protest, said committee member Brad Sigal. The group has since had 12 other organizations sign on as co-hosts on Facebook, and Sigal expects more to join over the next couple weeks.
“I think it’s going to be massive. I think the general outrage against the Trump administration’s policies is palpable here,” Sigal said. With the new impeachment probe, he added, “It’s a perfect storm that is going to lead to an unprecedented outpouring of resistance.”
Jackie Craig, a board member of one of the protest co-hosts, Women’s March Minnesota, borrowed a phrase to describe the upcoming protest: “It’s going to be HUGE.” Members of the Women’s March who are trained in de-escalating conflict will be there to help prevent clashes, she said.
Minneapolis is well-versed in providing security for large events, having hosted the Super Bowl and Final Four last year, city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said. She said the costs and details of how city expenses will be covered are still being worked out.
However, Carnahan said Friday she is worried about Mayor Jacob Frey’s response to Trump’s rally announcement. Frey had said he cannot stop the visit but that Trump’s “message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis” and called Trump’s actions “reprehensible.”
Carnahan said it’s almost as if Frey is “provoking violence and hatred and this animosity” toward Trump and his supporters. She said Trump supporters were attacked and spit on during his 2016 visit to Minneapolis. She said she hopes the city will put politics aside to ensure people’s safety.
Frey spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich said public safety is the city’s top priority for any large event and that the mayor, police chief and surrounding communities will have a plan in place for the event. Vlatkovich said the idea that Frey’s comments would provoke confrontation is “truly absurd.”
Frey is the latest in a line of DFL mayors in Minneapolis that stretches back decades. The last Republican-aligned politician to serve on the Minneapolis City Council was Dennis Schulstad, who retired in 1997.
Former Gov. Arne Carlson — a Republican who served on the Minneapolis City Council in the 1960s — said that no matter the political makeup of Minneapolis, when it comes to presidential visits the city’s role should be neutral. If dissenters want to protest, that’s their right, he said, but the mayor should not get involved in political fights.
“It’s just as inappropriate when Trump comes to the city and denounces the city somehow,” Carlson added. “Decency has to prevail.”