Counter-rally demonstrators shared motivations of peace and democracy
About 500 demonstrators gathered at Solders Field in support of the #GreaterThanFear march Thursday.
As a response to President Donald Trump’s visit to Rochester, they headed downtown with signs, chants and songs while staying away from Trump supporters at the Mayo Civic Center. Rally spokesperson Heidi-Mae Wilkins said the event was to raise their voices and celebrate community, not promote political differences.
Traveling northbound on Broadway to Second Street, they remained in the intersection for around 10 minutes chanting and singing, namely “We Shall Not Be Moved.” A few car horns were held back by the Rochester Police Department, who were leading and controlling traffic for the march.
Bruce Berry, 72, drove down from Minneapolis for the rally and brought a 6-by-8 sign boldly painted, “Unfit” along with the silhouette of Trump’s hair. As the march walked through town, he and Roger Cuthbertson, 79, held up the sign high, occasionally even blocking the view of a few Trump supporters who tried to yell and engaged along the way.
“We agreed that ‘unfit’ was the word that fit the best before the inauguration,” the veteran said. “He’s truly unfit, and the world is in danger.”
Starting in Washington, D.C., when Trump was sworn in, he has since attended 12 protests throughout the county. Comparing those experiences to Rochester’s, he wished there was more opportunity for civil dialogue with supporters of the president.
“We actually need confrontation, but I’m afraid they would actually trample us if we ever said anything against him,” Berry said. “If we don’t engage with the other side, this will never end. So, we have to have a discussion.”
Isabella Dunbar, 17, agreed that confrontation has its place in change but said it might not be the best approach in all situations.
“It’s definitely something that I struggle with, because I think that a lot of times polarization is fueled by avoiding talking to the other side,” Dunbar said. “I think something like this, when you get so many people together and there’s so much energy, it’s better to get the message out without risking confrontation which could turn violent, which we obviously don’t want.
“I hope that this is noted as an example of how to peacefully get your message out, and it’s taken into account so that Donald Trump knows that when he comes to places where they disagree with what’s happening, we’re not going to stay silent because that is part of democracy.”
While Mayo High School student said her youth can sometimes lead people to brush her off, even sometimes at the Capitol as part of the local Youth Commission, it can also be an advantage.
“I think that’s definitely been a part of my growth because it’s led me to go out of my way to research topics, so that when they say I don’t know what I’m talking about, then I can show that I do,” she said. “So, I think that youth is an asset, and the detriments of it can be overcome to continue to make it more so.”
Dunbar wasn’t alone when it came to being on the younger side of the crowd. Among many other college and high school aged students, there were also many children with their families at the march.
Hope Dwyer, 35, of Rochester, attended the march with her children, Kayden, 10 and Zak, 8. She said that she wanted to teach them respect by not approaching events like this with anger or aggression.
“Their first rally was after the inauguration at the Women’s March in Peace Plaza,” she said. “I think it’s important for them to see democracy in action.”
Dwyer added that she hopes this show of democracy is seen by others in the community as well.
“I hope that our leaders see that there’s a lot of people who don’t follow his rhetoric,” she said.
Steve Delzer, 68, of south Minneapolis, is bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which has its office in Rochester. Delver said was supportive of this non-confrontational way of sharing their political beliefs and disagreements.
“I want people to see that I think it’s important to stand up and participate in the democratic process,” he said. “This is a great illustration of democracy happening.”
While wearing his collar and cross, he said he came out and joined the rally to march for peace.
“I hope that people see this and — just like what’s being shouted out — do everything we can do to work towards staying united and working together in peaceful ways,” Delzer said. “I mean, our president is not helping that, and this is a public statement against what he’s doing.”