MINNEAPOLIS — Hundreds of demonstrators amassed outside the Target Center Thursday, Oct. 10, to protest President Donald Trump's first major campaign event since the launch of an impeachment inquiry against him, with few outbursts between supporters and protesters throughout the evening.
Pro- and anti-Trump Minnesotans alike poured into Minneapolis from across the state for Thursday's rally. Some said they drove in from places as far off as Duluth and International Falls, although many said they were local to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Throngs of anti-Trump protesters, ranging from preteens to retirees, posted up along North First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis early in the evening, taking up several blocks of the street. Periodic bouts of rain did not appear to deter those present, many of whom said they traveled from out of town to demonstrate.
Pro-Trump rally-goers waved signs and sold merchandise outside the arena Thursday afternoon but had largely dispersed by nightfall. The number of anti-Trump demonstrators rose steadily throughout the day before the protest grew rapidly around 5 p.m. Several regional political groups pledged to participate in the protest days before the rally took place.
The crowd made more and more noise as it swelled in size. Many of its members toted megaphones and blew whistles in a gesture of support to recent political whistleblowers, and occasionally broke into chants of "lock him up" among other slogans. Some brought signs and flags to wave, and others brought drums and horns to play under the glow of the Target Center's facade.
Demonstrators continued to roar even as the rally inside the arena got underway. Several blocks away, hundreds of Trump supporters gathered outside to watch a live broadcast of the rally.
Many demonstrators waved signs that criticized Trump for his campaign's refusal to pay the city in advance for the additional security necessary for the rally. On Tuesday, the city ultimately backed off on its request for the money up front.
"His presence here is a finger in the eye for the whole city," said Steve Clay of Minneapolis, who protested Trump's visit Thursday afternoon.
Some of Trump's supporters, however, said Thursday that it was Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey who came out of the spat looking worse. Corey Bonander, who said he hails from the Twin Cities region, said the mayor disrespected his Republican constituents in his handling of the disagreement.
Scores of protesters held signs that signaled their support for the impeachment inquiry that House Democrats launched against Trump earlier this month. At the center of the inquiry is a whistleblower claim that Trump attempted to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart into investigating the business ties of the son of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Thursday's rally was notable, too, for taking place in the district of one of Trump's political nemeses — U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Despite the looming threat of impeachment, many of Trump's supporters present Thursday decried the inquiry as an attempt to undermine his presidency. Several compared the impeachment inquiry to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"He's been going through it ever since he was elected," said Taylor Soddi, who said he traveled from Madison, Wis., for the rally.
Thursday's rally was part of a larger effort by Trump's campaign to flip the state in his favor for the 2020 election. Despite its long history of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, Minnesota came within 1.5 percentage points of electing Trump in 2016.
Demonstrators said they opposed Trump's stances on immigration and reproductive rights. To demonstrate in favor of the latter, several young women donned costumes like those worn in "The Handmaid's Tale," a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood that depicts a future United States where the subjugation of women runs rampant.
Similarly, other protesters wore costumes that resembled the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam.
On the other hand, many of Trump's supporters said Thursday that his stances on abortion and border security are among the reasons they will vote for him in 2020.
The crowd outside the arena began to thin as the rally inside wound down. Some demonstrators moved to confront those who exited the complex, leading to several verbal altercations.
As the crowds mingled, some of their members shoved and cursed at one another. Around 9 p.m., an unknown individual or group set fire to a collection of pro-Trump signs and memorabilia. Smoke could be seen wafting into the air in the moments before the fire was put out.
Ranks of city police, some of whom were outfitted in riot gear, slowly pressed the straggling demonstrators off the streets. Pepper spray was deployed on several occasions and many could be seeing running in the opposite direction of the advancing officers, covering their mouths and coughing.
A spokesperson for the city police could not immediately confirm Thursday night that any arrests were made. By 11 p.m., most of the crowd outside the arena had dispersed.