When President Trump holds his Target Center rally Thursday night, it will draw thousands of his supporters and opponents to the heart of the most Democratic city in the state.
It’s created logistical and cost concerns for Minneapolis officials, who are asking for help from state, local and federal law enforcement agencies and expecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra costs for security.
“Whether you are attending the event in support or protesting in opposition, we will do everything possible to ensure your safety,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said this week. “Your safety is our responsibility, it is our top priority and we take that charge very seriously.”
Trump held rallies in Duluth and Rochester, Minn., in the last campaign cycle, but his Minneapolis appearance is expected to draw much larger crowds, including thousands of protesters.
Minneapolis is in the 5th Congressional District, one of the most Democratic districts in the country. It elected DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar last fall with 78 percent of the vote, and in 2016, only 18 percent of voters there backed Trump for president.
Jackie Schwarz Craig, who works with the Women’s March Minnesota, said her first reaction to the rally was fear for Omar, whom Trump has targeted in his tweets.
“He’s been targeting Ilhan with a lot of rhetoric and quite frankly a lot of hate. And she has been nothing but graceful,” she said. “I personally fear for her and her family. We shouldn't have to fear for the families of people representing our communities.”
Giselda Gutierrez works with the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, which posted a “Dump Trump” protest event on Facebook that's attracted thousands of responses. She said she was shocked when she heard Trump was coming to Minneapolis.
“It seems very intentional that he’s coming here. He’s going to hit on those messages of being anti-Muslim and anti-refugee, and that’s why we decided we needed to oppose that,” she said. “We’re not going to be sucked into that message of hating our fellow community members, people we live with.”
More than a dozen groups are working together to coordinate the protests and they’re training hundreds of marshals to try to keep protesters safe during the event. The groups said they don’t want any violence.
“All of the coalition have signed on to an agreement to make sure this rally is and this protest is peaceful for everyone. We want families to come out here, we want everyone to come out here because this is about us,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
But the groups are worried about militant outside groups that could disrupt that. The self-proclaimed anti-fascist protest group Antifa has called for supporters to show up on Thursday, as has the group the Oath Keepers, an anti-government far-right organization whose members often show up to events armed. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the group's founder as a known extremist.
Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said police are keeping an eye on the actions of outside groups and are aware of a “myriad of different external factors” they could confront.
But Trump has strong support outside of the Twin Cities, and thousands are expected to travel to Minneapolis Thursday to try to see him in the Target Center. The venue can hold 20,000 people, and Trump claimed on Twitter this week that more than 72,000 people had already requested tickets from his campaign.
Trump came within 1.5 percentage points of beating Hillary Clinton in Minnesota, a state that hasn't picked a Republican for president since Richard Nixon's landslide win in 1972.
And he's already pledging to win Minnesota in 2020. His campaign was using the rally to mobilize and train volunteers near a golf course in Anoka this week. Lisa Schneengans, a Trump supporter from Lakeville, plans to be an usher for supporters at the rally.
She didn’t have trepidation about him holding the rally in Minneapolis.
"I think it's really important for him to go into the inner city, because that's really where we have to win hearts and minds,” she said. “Once he's shown he's ready to take on the belly of the beast, I think it's going to be a huge thing for his campaign."