Before Air Force One touched down at the Missoula airport for a historic visit from President Donald Trump on Oct. 18, a “Love Trumps Hate” protest rally took place in Missoula.
“It is not working for us to continue to engage in hateful, decisive rhetoric,” said Erin Erickson, director of Missoula Rises, the group that organized the event.
A crowd of nearly 1,500 people gathered under a sunny, fall sky at Playfair Park and enjoyed food, songs and camaraderie. “That’s the old way and it’s not working. We are going to channel our passion to create positive change through the democratic process,” she said.
Throughout the afternoon, dancers took to the stage and everyone joined in a chorus of the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” Among waving American and rainbow flags dispersed throughout the cheering assembly.
President Trump made his visit to Missoula to campaign for State Auditor Matt Rosendale, who is running against Montana Dem. Sen. Jon Tester. Trump also spoke in support of U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is running against Dem. Kathleen Williams. Trump praised Gianforte for “body slamming” a reporter in May, 2017. “That’s my kind of guy,” the President told the crowd of nearly 8,000. Trump also said that he was out to “punish Sen. Tester for opposing his choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.” That choice was Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, and Tester is the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and long-time advocate of veterans’ issues in Congress. Tester opposed Jackson’s appointment last April.
ON A NATIONAL level, there has been a Republican trend to “paint Democrats as an angry mob,” said Erickson. “We feel it’s important to get our community together and respond to his (Trump’s) divisive and hateful rhetoric by coming together as a community and getting out the vote.”
The rally was a way for people unhappy with the President to channel their energies into action. “We are doing an excellent job of channeling all those emotions into something constructive,” she said.
Signs supporting Tester and Williams, “Trump making America Hate again!”; “Rosendale and Gianforte are Trump’s lap dogs”; and “Hatred & Violence Have no place in The Last Best Place!” waved throughout the crowd. Even a long-hair dachshund got into the action wearing a T-shirt that read, “Trump gives wieners a bad name.”
Many expressed their discontent with the Trump administration, including Mary Clackston of Missoula, “Future generations are going to suffer as a result of Trump’s politics. Healthcare is going to suffer if they abandon Obamacare and there isn’t anything else to replace it,” she said. Clackston also quoted Jeannette Rankin who was the Mont. U.S. House Representative in 1916, “democracy requires participation.”
OTHER WAYS people channeled their discontent with Trump included a 60-foot word, “LIAR” created out red, white and blue letters off the “L” which is on Mount Jumbo east of Missoula. Also, a giant “I” was placed before the “M” on Mount Sentinel above the University of Montana, followed by “peach” (impeach) and “DUMP TRUMP DSA” was reportedly spelled out on Waterworks Hill located north of town by the Democratic Socialists of America.
During the rally, Missoula Mayor John Engen read a poem he had written and said, “This is democracy in action. People coming together and acknowledging the power of the ballot box and recognizing that if we don’t vote, we don’t change.”
At 5:30 p.m., protesters marched down Bancroft Street to the county fairgrounds, where protesters could drop off their ballots. Buses also stopped by the park all afternoon to take voters to the ballots. A small group of protesters were reportedly on Highway 10, near the gates after the Trump rally ended.