Trump supporters, protesters flock to president's rally
FARGO — The proximity was too close for Jackie Harrison and Viki Adam to stay inside Eventide and not join the growing demonstration across the street at Scheels Arena protesting President Donald Trump's arrival on Wednesday, June 27.
Both women battle multiple sclerosis and said they are cared for by mostly immigrants at the assisted living facility. That's why Harrison said she showed up with a large sign attached to the back of her wheelchair that read, "Immigration Fuels the Economy."
"We're anti-Trump for many reasons — too many to put on this sign," Harrison said with a laugh.
Outside Scheels Arena, there were 300 to 400 protesters taking part in a march that stretched as far three city blocks before reaching Urban Plains Park.
An even longer line of thousands of Trump supporters weaved throughout the parking lot, waiting to get inside for a chance to see the president as he rallied for Senate candidate Rep. Kevin Cramer.
Cass County Cpl. Myron Canales was wearing 70 pounds of gear in the 88-degree heat, a semi-automatic rifle over his shoulder as he manned the front entrance.
Shortly before 4 p.m., the yellow rope holding back the seemingly endless line was let go and the floodgate of MAGA hats opened. At the front of the line was a man known as "Michael the Black Man," holding his Blacks For Trump sign that's made frequent appearances in the background at Trump rallies across the country.
Folks walked into Scheels Arena eating slices of pizza and chanting, "Build the Wall."
A handful of Trump supporters confronted protesters, which created a few moments of tension, but the scene remained peaceful overall. At one point, officers had to divide protesters and Trump supporters standing along the motorcade route.
Moorhead Police Sgt. Thad Stafford said his department was tasked with overseeing Urban Plains Park where protesters planned to gather. Stafford said he heard that Antifa and counter-protests could spark up, but there wasn't an organized effort to shut down the protest.
Fargo Deputy Chief Joe Anderson said his department anticipated an influx of medical calls due to the heat, which was the case at the rally last week in Duluth, Minn. One woman here had a diabetic issue and there were several cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion, he said.
Officers issued some trespassing warnings, Anderson added, but no one was physically removed. A man tried camping overnight in the parking lot, but left when threatened with arrest for trespassing, Anderson said.
At 6:10 p.m, the doors were closed to Scheels Arena. An older woman in front who refused to give her name said she felt lousy, having waited in line for more than three hours.
A man in line yelled, "Well, now we can drink beer," after the realization that the rest of the crowd was not getting in. A few people pointed out that some people were still being allowed in via a VIP line.
Police officers and Secret Service started telling the crowd they had to cross the street to the parking lot and begin to disperse, but Air Force One flew by, prompting people in line to aim their phones to the sky for a glimpse. Over at the park, protesters pointed their middle fingers at the aircraft.
Officers got word from Scheels Arena that more could be let in. About 50 people sprinted through the doors six minutes after the crowd was told the arena was closed. People everywhere rushed back to the line, squeezing between guard rails.
At 6:35 p.m., those in line were again told Scheels Arena was closed and they'd have to watch it on TV. Many sat outside the arena watching Trump speak on their phones.
"We just make sure (Trump is) safe, we don't bring big-screen TVs," one Secret Service officer joked.
A group asked for a picture with the Secret Service officer, who wanted to smile, but was asked to look mean for the picture.
"It's your tax dollars at work," the officer said.