Countering Pence visit, protesters gather at Duluth's Civic Center

Support for the U.S. Postal Service and Black Lives Matter highlighted the counterprotest.
Dr. Mary Owen speaks to the crowd at a protest hosted by the Forward Coalition at Civic Center in Duluth Friday afternoon, Aug. 28. (Jed Carlson /

Several dozen protesters gathered around the fountain in Duluth's Civic Center on Friday to counter Vice President Mike Pence's visit.

Holding signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, U.S. Postal Service and voting, protesters were dismayed with Pence’s visit and opposed President Trump’s reelection campaign.

Speaking to the crowd through a bullhorn, Dr. Mary Owen said it was important everyone speak up for the issues that matter most to them and urged solidarity among activists.

“We need people fighting for freedom together like we are seeing today, and to support one another and say ‘I recognize your issue is important to all of us,’” Owen said. “So let’s not fight amongst ourselves, let’s bring ourselves together, let comfort those that can’t be here today and support them and support their issues and do what makes us passionate.”

Joel Kilgour, of Duluth, speaks into a megaphone as he talks to the crowd at a protest hosted by the Forward Coalition at Civic Center in Duluth Friday afternoon, Aug. 28. (Jed Carlson /

Though the event was originally slated for Rice's Point Landing, not far from where Pence spoke at Clure Public Marine Terminal, organizers opted to move over concerns the area would be blocked off for security.

Joel Kilgour of Loaves and Fishes, part of the Catholic Worker Movement that hosted the event, told attendees that protesting outside the event would have just led to more divisiveness.

And, Kilgour said, activists are tired.

Pence’s visit and the protest comes at the end of a summer that started with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and is ending with the fears that Postal Service cutbacks and slowdowns could put elections in jeopardy — all while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

"We could have been down there where Pence is rallying right now," Kilgour said. "But we know how that would have ended — with a lot of shouting back and forth. Not only do we not have time, but we’re really tired of the divisiveness in this country. We don’t need more of that.”

Three Black Lives Matter protesters at the Pence event were asked to leave and complied.


Attendee Andrea Gelb brought along a clipboard full of voter registration forms while others handed out “I will vote” stickers.

“I want to help to remove any obstacle and make it easy for people to exercise that right (to vote),” Gelb said.
Janet Born, left, talks with Mike Kuitu before a protest of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit at the Civic Center in Duluth Friday afternoon, Aug. 28. (Jed Carlson /

David Tryggestad of Duluth, a retired Lutheran pastor, held a sign with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “There can be no peace without justice” quote.

Although Friday’s protest was much smaller than the 1,000-plus person counter protest held at the Civic Center during Trump’s 2018 event, Tryggestad said the feeling of people gathering there reminded him of it.

“This feels good,” he said. “Having Pence in town feels like a violation."


Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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