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Duluth leaders ask for unity in wake of Trump election

Duluth Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford (left) speaks as St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber and Duluth Mayor Emily Larson listen at a rally on the steps of City Hall Sunday afternoon. Stauber and Larson organized the rally, at which several community leaders spoke in the name of unity in the wake of the recent presidential election. (Barrett Chase / bchase@duluthnews.com)

Two local partisan politicians, who in recent weeks have been rallying their backers to support opposing candidates for president, came together Sunday to ask for community unity in the Northland.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, an avowed Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, and St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber of Hermantown, a Republican activist and Donald Trump supporter, held a media event on the steps of City Hall in Duluth.

About 100 people attended what Larson called a “unity community event,” a call for Minnesota nice at home even as tumult was continuing in other cities.

“We pride ourselves on civic engagement and civility; we are not approaching that level of tension. But we also know how quickly that can change,” the mayor noted, adding that the community must rededicate “ourselves to kindness and compassion.”

Stauber said the community needs to focus on civility and respecting diversity.

Rev. Kathy Nelson of Peace Church said she passed out Band-Aids to children at service Sunday to help start their post-election healing.

“A lot of people are wounded” upset and angry by the election results, Nelson said at the event. The goal now, said Renee Van Nett of the Cross-Cultural Alliance of Duluth, is to “organize that energy into something positive.”

Ibrahim Al Qudah, director of the Twin Ports Islamic Center, said Muslim Northlanders hold peace as the “core of our faith” and that the Twin Ports community now needs to “bring people together’’ of all faiths and cultures to mend differences.

Carl Crawford, the City of Duluth’s human rights officer praised leaders for holding the event, saying it was a discussion lacking in many other cities.

“Today we stand together in unity against hate,” Crawford added.

Annie Harala, chairwoman of the Duluth School Board, spoke about racial slurs and other intolerant language that were found in a city school bathroom last week, promising the district investigate and punish the culprits.

Racism “roared up this week in Duluth schools” after the election, she said.

“We want to be clear that intolerance and hatred is absolutely not accepted in our schools,’’ Harala said, urging parents and the entire community to encourage respectful behavior at home so that flows into the schools.

The closely divided election — in which more people voted for the loser and which pitted rural against urban America and in large part whites against minorities — has spurred violence and disruptive events in some areas and disconcern among many Trump opponents.

While there has been no obvious anti-Trump backlash in the Northland, the event Sunday came on the heels of major protests in the Twin Cities, New York, Los Angeles, Washington and several other cities since last week's election.

The rhetoric Sunday was a far cry from recent events where Stauber and Larson were leading partisan cheers against the other party. One week ago when Stauber was one of the speakers who introduced Mike Pence, now the newly elected vice president, offering angry words on the Obama administration and praising gun activist Ted Nugent. On Oct. 28 Larson was on stage at the University of Duluth gym as the first speaker in a campaign rally featuring Vice President Joe Biden, urging Democrats at the event to work hard for Hillary Clinton's victory.

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