Protesters push back on Trump visit
The signs said it a hundred different ways, but Joel Kilgour put it simply.
"I want to assure you that what's going on down at the DECC right now does not represent Duluth's values," the activist told a crowd of hundreds from the steps of Duluth City Hall. "We want to hold up those values: The values of respect, the values of solidarity, the values of everyone being included."
With a chant of "we are one," the crowd took a walk toward the arena where President Donald Trump was due to speak.
Protests were varied and largely peaceful on Wednesday as Trump descended on Duluth. More than 1,000 marchers took their message down West Railroad Street past Amsoil Arena where Trump supporters greeted them with middle fingers and taunting, some of which was reciprocated by marchers.
Some marchers stopped at the arena, while others continued toward Lake Place Park where they merged with the DFL's Blue Wave rally.
Throughout the day, the resistance strived to offer something for everyone.
"I'm getting tired of being angry," said Stephen Bockhold. That's why he chose to attend Soulstice, a nonpartisan event that seemed focused on community, he said. And that was intentional, said event co-organizer Rachel Wagner.
"I want to stand up and be for something, as opposed to being against," she said.
At the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street, a group carrying an Anonymous flag and wearing Guy Fawkes masks with signs that read "No Human is Illegal" and "F--- Trump."
Off to the side of the group, Connie Sabetti, a retired civics teacher from Eveleth, held her "Shame on you, Mr. Trump!!" sign. For her, nothing Trump does seems legal.
"I am terrified of what's happened to the checks and balances in our system," Sabetti said.
While nearly everyone inside the rally was a Trump supporter, the president kicked out some protesters during his speech.
Two of them, Kelly Richard and Sam Spadino of Minneapolis, were about 15 feet away from Trump when they began calling him a rapist.
"Get them out of here — out," Trump said.
The president then mocked Spadino, who wore his hair in a bun, as he was escorted out by law enforcement.
"Was that a man or a woman? Because he needs a haircut more than I do," Trump said. "I couldn't tell. I couldn't tell — he needs a haircut."
Spadino and Richard went into the rally with the goal of disrupting it.
"That was the plan," Richard told the News Tribune after leaving Amsoil.
As Richard was being escorted out, other attendees spat on and yelled at her, she said.
"It was sick," Richard said. "It was disgusting to see people support this man."
After Trump ended his speech and rally attendees emptied out of the arena, supporters and protesters yelled back and forth as law enforcement stood between the two groups.
Two protesters were handcuffed by law enforcement after they refused to stop yelling and crowding an attendee. The arrest was met with chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A." from the pro-Trump crowd.
According to the Duluth Police Department, the two were cited and released, one for disorderly conduct and the other for obstructing legal process.
"At the end of the rally, two people were cited and released after words escalated (into) a near physical altercation," Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken wrote on Facebook. "When police moved in to separate, another person obstructed police. Thousands of people and overwhelming civility was a good day for Duluth."
Protests were generally sparse outside Amsoil Arena, however, and by the time Trump took the stage there were about a dozen people holding signs and having conversations — at times shouting matches — with those in red hats.
Beth Kurtz stood her ground for hours, but as the rally got out and tensions reached a boiling point, the energized supporters started to overpower the protesters with pointed barbs and chants of "Trump, Trump, Trump."
"It makes me sad it was out of hate," said a shaken Kurtz, who came from Washburn to engage the other side civilly. "No one listened to what I was saying, they just saw my sign, saw my armpit hair ... it was bullying."
When she and several other protesters left, they did so with police officers escorting them in case of further confrontations.
Walking over Fifth Avenue West at sunset, they did their best to laugh and shake off the adrenaline of the encounter before heading off to their cars. There would be more minds to change another day.