Minneapolis, MN – An upcoming Trump rally announced for Thursday, October 10 at the downtown Target Center in Minneapolis has local left-leaning groups organizing counter-protests while national right-wing groups conflate their plans with false claims of terrorism. Plans to hold the GOP political rally in the sanctuary city of Minneapolis was broadcasted two days after an impeachment inquiry began against the President of the United States.
President Trump’s “Keep America Great” rally was made public on September 26, and by the next day thousands of Minnesota residents had already confirmed they would attend a “Dump Trump” counter-protest. The demonstration is being co-organized by over 15 local groups, including the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar Clark, Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), Native Lives Matter, and No Cages MN.
Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey wrote in a September 26 statement that while normally it’d be an honor to welcome a sitting President to the City of Lakes,
“[…] these aren’t ordinary circumstances. Since taking office President Trump’s actions have been reprehensible and his rhetoric has made it clear that he does not value the perspectives or rights of Minneapolis’ diverse communities.
On October 10, our entire city will stand not behind the President, but behind the communities and people who continue to make our city – and this country – great.” — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, September 26, 2019
Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender echoed Frey’s statements one week later, saying on October 3 that Trump’s “hate is not welcome in our community but we cannot stop the visit… I know this event will cause stress and fear – the city will do all we can, and ask for support, in keeping everyone safe.”
This is Trump’s first visit to Minneapolis since August 19, 2016, when he was met with protests as he came to the Minneapolis Convention Center for a fundraiser. Large protests also occurred in consecutive nights in the Twin Cities after Trump was elected.
Far-Right Panic About Antifa
That same day of council president Bender’s statement, the website It’s Going Down tweeted an anonymous call to protest Trump’s visit to Minneapolis, saying “People are calling for an ‘Anti-Capitalist Bloc.’” A video was posted on October 3 along with the tweet spotlighting the call, being referred to as “America is Canceled“.
Thousands are expected to converge next week in opposition to Trump and his world as he descends on #Minneapolis on Thursday, October 10th. People are calling for an ‘Anti-Capitalist Bloc.’ #DefendMN https://t.co/IXVf0PQZcW pic.twitter.com/PPMKUuHwig
— It’s Going Down (@IGD_News) October 3, 2019
Right-wing media also began taking note of the anti-Trump protest announcement and quickly spun their own narrative about it. Cassandra Fairbanks wrote on October 3 for The Gateway Pundit how a “Black Bloc protest” had been called for by “Antifa” at the Minneapolis Trump rally.
Some users wrote comments about the article, direct threats and advocate extreme violence against anti-Trump protesters during upcoming protests in Minneapolis on Thursday, October 10:
The following images include even more threatening comments toward anti-Trump protesters on a related article, from GOPusa.com:
This conflation amplified further when another right-wing blog formed by ex-Breitbart employees posted an article claiming “ANTIFA Terrorists” were planning a protest outside of the “Keep America Great” rally. Referring to anti-fascist protesters in part of a series of posts targeting the “violent left”, they wrote, “the terror group plans to protest Trump’s rally”. The same day, Antifa was described as a “left-wing domestic terror outfit” in a post by right-wing Washington Sentinel that labeled ItsGoingDown.org a “terrorist site“, replaced the phrase “Anti-Capitalist Bloc” with “Antifa Black Bloc” and alleged “Antifa” were “calling for violence to shut down” the upcoming Trump rally.
“Anifa[sic] is calling for a black bloc action … meaning that it is all out warfare against Trump supporters and no sort of violence is off limits.” — Washington Sentinel post about Antifa, October 3, 2019
Antifa, sometimes stylized anti-fa or ANTIFA, is an acronym for “anti-Fascist.” The acronym originated with a network opposed to the increasingly-Stalinist Communist Party of pre-WWII Germany.
In 2017, armed Oath Keepers protected white supremacists during the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one anti-fascist protester was killed and dozens more were severely injured. The Oath Keepers used social media as a dogwhistle to signal people with racist and nationalist perspectives to prepare for violent confrontations with left-leaning Americans.
On October 6, 2019, Oath Keepers posted an “alert” on their website calling for “veterans, bikers, three percenters, and other capable patriots” to provide armed security outside the upcoming Trump rally on Thursday. According to the statement, Oath Keepers are seeking to protect Trump supporters from “the violent communists of Antifa” whom they claim “often target the elderly and infirm.”
“We ARE on the verge of a HOT civil war.” — Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes September 30, 2019 (source)
Fixation on MN Rep. Ilhan Omar
Comments on social media have focused on the fact that Minneapolis is home to a large Somali-American population, and have spread disinformation that the alleged “Black Bloc” will be made up primarily of Somali-Americans from the district of Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN5), a fervent political opponent of President Donald Trump.
Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which is one of the most left-leaning districts in the U.S., is likely to be point of focus at Trump’s October 10 rally as part of a campaign strategy to make Rep. Ilhan Omar the ‘face’ of the Democratic Party.
Rep. Omar is the first Somali-American legislator in U.S. history and the second Muslim-American to hold the district. She called a community meeting in 2017 in response to President Trump’s “Muslim ban” which restricted travel of more than a hundred million people. More recently, in April 2019, Minnesotans gathered in support of Rep. Omar after she revealed death threats against her spiked dramatically after a tweet from the President’s personal account juxtaposed footage of Omar with the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.
Rep. Omar has been a high profile political target for Trump, who has alleged both anti-Semitism and a lack of patriotism against her. The charges of anti-Semitism seem to be an attempt to punish Rep. Omar’s support for the Boycott – Divest – Sanctions (BDS) movement and her support for human rights in general. This past summer Trump personally encouraged Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to ban Representative Omar from entering Palestine, tweeting on August 15 that it would show “great weakness” if Netanyahu allowed the Minnesota politician to visit Palestine. In August of 2019, both Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib were blocked from visiting Israel.
In July 2019, President Trump had stoked Islamophobic elements of his base when he falsely accused Rep. Omar of of being “pro Al-Qaeda“ the group responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and remarked if she “hate[s] our country” then she “can leave.”
Spreading Disinfo on Muslims & Anti-Fascists
President Trump’s ramped-up insistence on alleged dangers faced from Antifa and from Muslim-Americans came within weeks of Trump publishing a video with apparent ties to a fascist militia group. The video for the “Keep America Great 2020” campaign was paired with a statement of gratitude for his supporters “as we MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Trump has also floated the idea of crackdowns against anti-fascists and political activists. Two days after he made the August 15 statement against Rep. Omar, Trump tweeted about “naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.’” The tweet came the same day as a 2019 far-right rally in Portland, Oregon.
The day of the rally, Fox news contributor Dan Bongino implied that ANTIFA stands for “Anti-First Amendment” an hour after Trump’s tweet. The following Monday, August 19, the Daily Beast reported that Senior White House correspondent Kellyanne Conway seemed to repeat this allegation as fact with her remark, “[…] what antifa stands for? It’s anti-First Amendment.”
Recently, right-wing media and politicians in the United States have been hyper-focused in their association of the acronym Antifa with terrorism, violence, and even the word fascism itself. Since Charlottesville, the right has increasingly been labeling any anti-Trump protest as the work of “Antifa“, while simultaneously pushing efforts to label “Antifa” as a terrorist organization, in an apparent attempt to effectively ban any protest against Trump.
Efforts by right-wing media, and Trump himself, to confuse the people of the United States about anti-fascism are happening at the same time institutional efforts by the U.S. government are failing to properly address the threat of domestic terrorism in America’s heartland from white supremacist organizations.
Several highly violent incidents in recent years have spurred awareness of of white supremacist threats. During the past several years the Midwest has experienced open acts of white supremacy many times. Minneapolis, Minnesota was the site of the 2015 Black Lives Matter protest that was targeted by armed white supremacist terrorists who shot and wounded five unarmed Black protesters.
In 2016, three young Muslim men were murdered execution-style in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The next year, a white man was convicted of attempted murder after shooting up a car of Somali-American men and wounding two in Minneapolis as they were headed to prayer.
In 2017, three right-wingers from Illinois drove northwest to Minnesota and bombed a popular mosque in Bloomington, MN. In 2018, prosecutors with the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleged that the men (who had also attempted to bomb an abortion clinic in Illinois) had bombed the mosque with intentions to scare Muslims into leaving the United States.
In the summer of 2019, a Faribault man was charged with hate crimes after using a pressure washer against Somali Muslim children. This past month, several east-African-owned Minneapolis businesses were vandalized by a 36-year-old man who reportedly said to police he “hates Somalis.”
Actions by Minneapolis Police
This visit is happening in the City of Lakes at a time the city government and the police union continue to have public differences. The week the Trump rally was announced, a change in uniform rules went into effect for the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD): MPD officers cannot appear on stage or in the backdrop in support of a political candidate while wearing their city-issued uniforms.
Though Minneapolis’ mayor and chief of police have both said the rule change has been in the works for a year, as well as provided evidence to back up their claim, Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll is disagreeing in an attempt to take advantage of an already-tense political situation.
“[Police union leader] Bob Kroll knows exceedingly well that this has been a conversation for quite some time, and if he says otherwise, he’s not telling the truth and he knows it.” — Mayor Frey, October 2019
On September 29, Fox News reported that as Trump was “taking his re-election campaign to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s district with a rally in Minneapolis” Lt. Kroll was “outraged over what he says is a sudden change in policy by the mayor.”
Lt. Kroll painted the rules as restrictions on his freedom as a member of Minneapolis’ working class:
“For many decades, when you look back, because of the labor presence, unions have supported the DFL, and in the past it’s never been a problem […] but because they’ve kind of turned their backs on, y’know, the police and many other working people, we’ve shifted gears and we’ve been endorsing Republicans for the past several years.” — Minneapolis Police union head Bob Kroll on Fox News, September 29, 2019
Kroll continued, “because of the, y’know, the Antifa and a lot of protesters … these types of events get violent.” He then alleged locals were afraid to come to the rally for fear of being assaulted, saying “We’ve had a lot of violent assaults downtown.” The head of the MPD union agreed with the Fox News interviewer that MPD officers were being made to feel “ashamed of the fact that they wear the uniform.”
On October 1, MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo said he wanted everybody living in Minneapolis to feel safe. He said that these new uniform laws would help make that so by preventing a scene where it could appear as though this particular sitting President was being supported by members of the local police force.
“I don’t want the Minneapolis Police Department to be politicized, at all.” — Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, October 2019
Though Lt. Kroll (who now has “Cops for Trump” t-shirts for sale) insinuated some allegiance between members of the MPD and the broader working class, other members of the community disagree. In a 2017 report by MPD150, a People’s Project Evaluating Policing, it is asserted that the police department “has always acted as the enforcement arm of the economic and political elite.”
Kroll, MPD union head, has battled also with previous Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau about whether Kroll should be permitted to wear his city-issued work uniform while off-the-clock and in public. Then-Chief Harteau reminded Lt. Kroll in an email that as a member of MPD leadership Kroll was expected to “set a good example” to fellow MPD employees as well as to the public.
“This letter is a reminder as well as a direct order that you wear your MPD uniform only for MPD-sanctioned purposes. […] ‘MPD-sanctioned purposes’ does not include speaking in your capacity as a labor union representative.” – former Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, July 2016
This year, during Trump’s Thursday visit to Minneapolis, it’s expected that he will exploit recent high-profile crimes in downtown Minneapolis that have been falsely claimed by right-wing media as ‘Somali mob attacks in Rep. Omar’s district.’ and are spotlit by corporate media and downtown business councils fixated on increasing policing. His xenophobic white nationalist “Keep America Great” base will likely continue to scapegoat Muslims, anti-fascists, and human rights activists as the cause of America’s “corruption.”