MINNEAPOLIS — Steele County residents were among the thousands who gathered downtown Minneapolis Thursday night for President Donald Trump’s campaign event, as the current head of state, and 2020 reelection hopeful, addressed supporters inside Target Center Oct. 10 even as demonstrators protested outside.
While the rally garnered both local and national attention, few area residents reported personally witnessing any clashes or violence between supporters and protesters, many of whom held signs reading “Impeach.”
“It seemed really peaceable. I didn’t observe anything,” said Ryan Jirele. He and his mother volunteered in the rain outside the Target Center entrance, assisting with the lines.
Medford resident Betty Quiring noted the same thing.
“In the crowd waiting to get in, there were no protesters that were there having a dispute with anybody,” she reported.
Quiring added that most of the demonstrators were a fair distance away from the arena, and praised law enforcement for their crowd control efforts.
According to the Star Tribune, the protest did result in a few clashes between groups, with law enforcement using a chemical irritant on some of the demonstrators. However, the paper noted that much of downtown was cordoned off to prevent confrontations.
“Probably a block and a half from the entrance, there were maybe five protesters against Trump. There were also a few more that were for Trump, and there was no dissension going on between the two groups at the time that my sister and I walked through there,” said Quiring. “We never once felt threatened.”
The pair arrived close to 1 p.m., and didn’t make it inside until almost four hours later, according to Quiring. For those entering the arena, she said that security protocols were what you would typically see at an airport.
Pam Seaser, co-chair of the Steele County Republicans, had arrived early like Jirele to volunteer as an usher. Working in the skyway, Seaser reported being glad to be isolated from demonstrators, as she recounted hearing stories of attendees being spit on and having whistles blown at them.
“I know that he has tweeted or spoken in a way that people don’t always like, but sometimes it just has to be said, or that’s just his character,” she said, of her reasons for attending the event. “But he is a good man and wants the best for people … he wants less government in people’s lives.”
Jirele, Seaser and Quiring all noted that Trump’s support of America’s military and law enforcement officials was a key part of their endorsement of his campaign, and that it was a topic during the rally.
According to Seaser, Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, spoke before Trump took the stage, along with Vice President Mike Pence, state party chair Jennifer Carnahan, Eric Trump and Mike Lindell, the founder of MyPillow.
Kroll was then brought back out by Trump, as a crowd of attendees wearing red “Cops for Trump” shirts stood directly behind the podium. After off-duty Minneapolis police officers were prohibited from attending the event in uniform, the federation created the T-shirts to show their support.
Kroll later took to Fox News, saying he thought the uniform prohibition was fair, but that he felt “you don’t change the game midstream.”
The rationale behind the policy was that the presence of off-duty officers in uniform in the stands could be misconstrued by residents as an official endorsement from the Minneapolis Police. According to the Star Tribune, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement, “Trust is the cornerstone of our service, and I believe this policy helps to strengthen that.”
For his part, Jirele praised law enforcement and those present for keeping everything “peaceable.”
“I was kind of surprised. It was pretty easy-going. It seems like things were very calm and everyone was in good spirits. You get these rallies, and they make it out that there could be violence or unrest. I didn’t really observe any of that,” he said.
The Tribune noted that the protest drew a multigenerational crowd, and Jirele noted that the rally was the same way. For his part, he said, attending the event with his mother was meaningful. The pair took Metro Transit up to the cities, avoiding traffic along the way. For Jirele, this will be only the third election he has been able to vote in and it was his first time attending a campaign event.
“Getting a little more insight into the value of being involved and more informed, it prompted me to want to attend and hear first person from the president,” he explained. “[I wanted] to get my information directly through the events rather than just reading about it.”
He said he was pleased to see other young people in the audience, a feeling echoed by Quiring. “I saw all kinds of ages, but there was a big group of juniors and seniors in high school all the way up through [people in their] 30s,” she remarked.