President Trump’s visit to Nuss Truck & Equipment on April 15 brought out supporters and protestors to the Burnsville business. When I arrived, there was a clear divide on the road leading to where the President was set to speak.
“Your side’s over there!”
“He’s on the other side! You’re supposed to go over there!” shouted a Trump supporter to me as I began to take photos.
I replied, “I’m just here to document the event. I didn’t know I had to be on a certain side.”
“Fake news!” she replied, and began filming me with her mobile device.
The pro-Trump side was quiet except for the occasional “Legal Immigration!” or “Build that Wall!”
As the protesters held their anti-Trump and pro-Ilhan Omar signs across the road, Trump supporters yelled out random comments:
“Do you know how the Civil War started? By defending this country!”
“Viva la Trump!”
“Every single one of them forgot 9/ll. Don’t ever forget 9/11!”
“Some of us want socialism, some of us want to work for ourselves.”
It was apparent by one Trump supporter’s sign that getting a disease like Ebola from an illegal immigrant was her worst fear. “Can you report that this morning the Texas health authorities reported that 20 migrants crossed into Texas are being evaluated for Ebola? There is a worldwide health crisis for Ebola and the mortality rate is 90%! Imagine if that was your child in detention with those migrants. The border is about keeping America safe! So that everyone that enters America is healthy to protect your family. It’s not a racist thing to protect your family. There’s a TB outbreak, a mumps outbreak, measles…all kinds of outbreaks. We don’t have the resources to protect those people. I love everybody, but I don’t want to bring disease into the country.”
“The thing that everyone wants to say about us is that we don’t want immigrants here. We want immigrants here just as much as anybody else, but it has to be done the legal way,” said Randy Quick, a pro-Trump supporter.
“We want people that love America,” said the woman.
When I asked the woman if she thought those crossing the border did not love America, she replied, “Not all of them do love America. Do you expect to just march into another country and demand to be a citizen and given everything? I don’t think so.”
Quick added, “That side wants to characterize us as a ‘Hating Group’ but we’re not a hating group. We’re Americans and we want people to come into America the legal way. That’s all we’re saying.”
“We all immigrated somehow,” shouted a man from the crowd. Quick said, “My great-grandparents immigrated from Norway. We need immigrants.”
I crossed over to the pro-Omar side and was met by Anne Jones of South Minneapolis. She was holding a sign that read, “In our house we believe: Black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real, love is love, kindness is everything.”
“Evil, vengeful, dishonest…He’s dishonored the office of the Presidency. I don’t understand people two years into this supporting this type of malevolent evil. The incompetence of this administration is shocking,” said Jones in a concerned voice. “He’s shredding the constitution! He’s shredding our civil liberties and human rights. I don’t understand not being able to see what’s right in front of us in plain sight.”
“Is there any chance of the two sides coming together and finding some commonality?” I asked Jones.
“I’m 68. In the ’50s or ’60s we had center-right, center-left parties and you could kind of disagree on an approach but eventually get to some kind of solution. I don’t see that anymore. I put it down to really polarizing right-wing radio. It’s really deliberately polarizing and dishonest. People listening to that non-stop are not getting the facts. So we’re not consuming the same information.
“We walked through this crowd (Trump supporters) to get come here and some guy said, ‘Here comes the wackos’. I don’t engage usually. I’ve never been around Trump supporters — I find it really creepy and disorienting. I said, ‘Well, it might interest you to know that we work for policies that help you, too.’ He said, ‘No you don’t!’ I don’t know how to have a conversation when somebody’s world views are that different and mean-spirited. Making immigration a top issue is a huge distraction. That isn’t even in the top 10 of our issues in this country. Healthcare, income and equality, education, climate change. They’re our issues, but the issues he’s [Trump] chosen to focus on are not even in the top 10 of things we need to worry about. It keeps people angry. He’s never tried to be a president for the whole country. “
Megan Sparks of Northeast Minneapolis brought her young daughter Abby to show support for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. “We are here to stand in support of our Congresswoman, our representative Ihan Omar. We can agree without threatening each other and classifying whole groups of people in the most hateful way.” For her, making certain she was there was important. “We had to put everything aside today and make a presence,” said Sparks.
As the President’s arrival time was pushed back, both sides continued exchanging chants like students at a high school football game.
“No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here!”
“Hey hey, ho ho, illegals gotta go!”
“This is what democracy looks like.”
“Build that wall!”
At one point, a section of the anti-Trump protesters began to sing the national anthem. I was sure that the pro-Trump supporters would join in and we would have a brief moment of commonality between the two sides. I was wrong. As I walked away from the Trump side, I heard a woman say, “Don’t go on that other side. No one will speak to you again!”
The walk to the other side of the road was short, yet the contrast between each side’s opinions and beliefs made that distance seem miles apart.