Port: 'We the People' rally draws just a fraction of expected turnout

Attendance fell far short of the thousands organizers prepared for.

PHOTO: We the People rally
A reader-submitted photo of the We the People rally in Bismarck, North Dakota, on 11/08/2021.
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MINOT, N.D. — A rally on the steps of the state capitol in Bismarck today failed to draw anything approaching what organizers prepared for.

Last week one of the organizers, a Minot man named Travis Zablotney, told reporter Michelle Griffith that they were preparing for thousands of attendees. "Zablotney said they have ordered 3,000 T-shirts to hand out to attendees, plan to have their own security guards present and rent about 40 porta-potties for the rally," she wrote .

The rally featured video addresses from national right-wing figures like Charlie Kirk, as well as a performance by country music artist Blind Joe who recently released an anti-vaccination song .

A friend at the state capitol sent me a couple of pictures of what was branded the "We the People" rally. This one was taken right as the rally started at noon.


PHOTO: We the People rally
A reader-submitted photo of the We the People rally in Bismarck, North Dakota, on 11/08/2021.

Here's a second picture, taken about 25 minutes into the rally.

Photo: We the People rally 25 minutes in
A photo of the We the People rally in Bismarck, North Dakota, taken November 8, 2021, at 12:25pm.

I'm terrible at estimating crowd sizes, but even if we're charitable and say there are as many as 300 attendees in that picture, that's still just 10 percent of the roughly 3,000 expected to attend based on the t-shirt order Zablotny described.

UPDATE: People who are better than I am at estimating crowd sizes have a consensus estimate that's in the 800 to 1,000 ballpark, and upon reflection, that seems about right. I told you I'm terrible at this stuff.

Keep in mind that the legislature was in session as this rally took place, and that draws a lot of personnel to the capitol building. Many of the people observing the rally are probably not supporters.

In related news, one of the organizers of the rally, which is focused on opposition vaccinations and other COVID-19 policies, is Rep. Jeff Hoverson , a Republican from Minot. He couldn't attend the rally, and is attending to his duties at the special session remotely, because he has come down with COVID-19 .


Back to the rally, there has been a food fight this year over control of the North Dakota Republican Party between Trump-aligned activists and lawmakers and more traditional Republicans.

The former group can often seem intimidating with their vociferous and prolific presence on social media. What this rally perhaps indicate is that, as a practical exercise in getting people to show up, is that this movement isn't nearly so potent as they would like us to believe.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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