Last Thursday, 18 Carleton students journeyed north in an organized venture to join protesters on the streets of downtown Minneapolis in defiance of a reelection campaign rally held by President Trump at Target Center.
The outing was a collaboration between CarlDems and Student Advocates for Reproductive Choice (SARC), organized by Carrie Kisicki ’21 and Alec Jacobson ’21 respectively. SARC, a branch for NARAL Pro-Choice activism group, was the main organizer for the event, with Jacobson taking the lead on planning the protest trip.
“Alec and I talked about organizing SARC and Dems to go the protest and possibly meet up with NARAL Pro-Choice group downtown. Because the timing didn’t work out to meet up with them, we just went on our own as a Carleton group,” Kisicki said.
This was the first rally held by Trump following the House of Representatives’s official announcement of impeachment inquiries, so it came at a time of intense national attention.
Kisicki said the reason why she felt she needed to join the protests was because “it felt like an important time for as many people as possible to show up, be seen, and reiterate that his actions as president have been harmful and unacceptable.”
Jacobson describes the protest as a mainly peaceful scene, but not without its passion and anger: “There were thousands of protesters walking around the Trump center holding signs and chanting. It was like a massive sea of people. While the protest was peaceful, it was very oppositional, and we saw plenty of strong words exchanged between Trump supporters and protesters.”
Rebecca Margolis ’21, a student who has been involved in multiple protests around the country and who attended the protest as part of this event, said that she was “interested to see that the police were not in riot gear and that it was a pretty calm environment. People were pretty polite.”
She also says she was struck by how close the protests were to Trump: “This is the first protest that I’ve been this close to Trump, he was literally right there. And I think that made it all the more powerful, because it wasn’t abstract and he was right there in the space where we were.”
Because of the charged timing of the rally, Trump’s Minneapolis campaign event received much coverage in the media, with outlets like Vox writing a piece titled “Trump’s Minnesota rally was a window into how ugly his 2020 campaign will be.” According to CNN, Trump used this rally to specifically target Somali immigrants by saying in his rally :
“For many years, leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers. I promised you that as president I would give local communities a greater say in refugee policy and put in place enhanced vetting and responsible immigration control. And I’ve done that.”
These statements by Trump reflect the anti-immigrant rhetoric he has used throughout his presidency to incite nationalist tensions. He also used the rally to call Minnesotan Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American, a “disgrace to our country.”
He also used the rally to rail against the Democrats taking action against him with the impeachment proceedings. The Washington Post reports that he said, “The Democrats’ brazen attempt to overthrow our government will produce a backlash at the ballot box, the likes of which they have never, ever seen before in the history of our country,” using a recent favorite claim using the impeachment inquiries to back up why he will win reelection in 2020.
Minnesota is a particularly contentious battleground since in 2016 Hillary Clinton only won with a narrowing 44,000 more votes than Trump. The president tweeted in July that he will win the state in 2020 “because of America hating anti-Semite Ilhan Omar & the fact that Minnesota is having its best economic year ever”.
The organizing of the event was also important in terms of the collaboration of different activism groups on campus. Kisicki writes:
“I think the whole process of organizing people to go to the protest really drove home for me the importance of connecting with other student political groups. Dems is pretty busy planning other events this term, and I don’t think we would have been able to manage transporting people to a protest on our own. But because we worked with Alec and SARC and they took on most of the organizing responsibilities, nearly twenty students were able to participate in an important protest. In the future I hope that student political groups can continue to build relationships and work together to connect students to the opportunities they really care about.”
Saying why he believes that protests like these are critical to contemporary political discourse, Jacobson says:
“Protests like this one show that Trump’s views don’t represent all Minnesotans or all Americans. When he says that Somali refugees aren’t welcome here, it’s essential to demonstrate that we do not believe that.”
Jacobson adds, “I hope that events like this encourage people to get involved in political organizing for the 2020 elections and to vote. This may be the most important election of our lives.”