BEMIDJI --- President Donald Trump spoke before a sea of thousands of red-hatted supporters gathered at Bemidji Aviation Services Friday evening, coinciding with Joe Biden’s Duluth visit and the start of early voting for the North Star State.
He took the stage just after 6 p.m. after deplaning to fanfare and cheers of “four more years.”
Throughout his animated and combative speech, themes of police, refugees, jobs, Democratic opponents and Social Security loomed large.
During his visit to the First City on the Mississippi he addressed several Minnesota specific topics before rolling into some of his usual rally greatest hits.
He began his speech by mentioning Minnesota’s Iron Range, then quickly moving to Minnesota’s relationship with refugees, however, he did not bring up the contentious Beltrami County vote from earlier this year.
He addressed “Sleepy Joe’s plan to flood your state with refugees.”
“You know better than almost anybody,” he said, and referenced Minnesota’s large Somali refugee population.
Trump spoke about how Biden supposedly has plans to increase Minnesota’s refugee acceptance numbers by 700 percent.
“Congratulations, Minnesota, good luck Minnesota, enjoy yourselves,” he said sarcastically to a cacophony of boos. “Your state will be overrun and destroyed.”
He then moved to address the unrest in Minneapolis, taking an opportunity to blame Minnesota lawmakers for their mishandling of the situation.
“Ever heard of a place called Minneapolis?” he said. “It’s a shame, it’s such a shame.”
He then mentioned the multitude of signs apparently poking fun at the idea the protests are not subject to COVID-19 gathering restrictions labeled attendees as “peaceful protesters” or read “this is a protest.”
He suggested their gathering might serve as “a protest against stupidity” or one against “Sleepy Joe.”
He joked with the crowd about its size, mentioning that he was told on the plane that there was “just a smattering” of people waiting for him.
“We’ve got a lot of people here,” he said, which was met with cheers. “We’re outside which actually makes people happy. This doesn’t include the 10,000 people they had to turn away. Sometimes you have Democrats running an airport.”
Later in his speech, Trump expressed his support for Enbridge Energy's Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
After speaking about Minnesota-specific issues, he moved into some of his regular rally talking points.
He brought up the Hillary Clinton email scandal, to echoes of “lock her up.”
He took countless digs at Biden. “Truth is, he’s not fit to be president,” Trump said.
He took expected shots at Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Gov. Tim Walz, all met with boos.
He went on a tangent surrounding conservative leaders, historical statues and Abraham Lincoln.
During the speech, word was received that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. Unless Trump was told prior to deplaning, it seems he may have been unaware during the speech. This adds even more weight to the upcoming election, as whoever wins will likely appoint her replacement.
A voice from the crowd shouted, “Ginsburg just died!”
Trump did not make any mention of her passing during his speech.
Originally, Trump was scheduled to speak in Mosinee, Wis., immediately following the Bemidji event, however, it was held Sept. 17, so he did not need to end the speech in time to fly to another engagement. Trump spoke for nearly two hours, wrapping up just after 8 p.m.
From the attendees’ perspective
For many Great American Comeback Tour attendees, the day began early in the morning.
Due to parking restrictions, attendees were shuttled in from an offsite parking location.
Upon arriving at the airport, attendees waded through entry gates, picked up masks, had their temperatures taken, collected signs upon entry, and went through TSA-style screening. Although free face masks were made available to the attendees at multiple points during the event, and required for entry, they did not appear to be widely worn once inside.
Announcements indicated only Trump-Pence campaign merchandise would be allowed on the premises and that anyone intending to protest needed to go to a designated protest area.
Once inside, crowds milled around to the tune of patriotic music, as well as Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys and David Bowie -- quite the mix. Whether pre-planned or not, Bemidji’s beloved plaid stood out in the stands behind Trump. The crowd engaged in the wave a few times.
Current state guidelines restrict large gatherings at 250 people. The rally crowd easily passed this tenfold.
The crowd size was the first of many digs at Gov. Tim Walz throughout the evening.
Republican Michelle Fischbach, a candidate for Minnesota’s 7th Congressional district, mentioned that while conservatives will have to wait more than two years to try to vote Walz out of office, it’ll be worth the wait.
Other notable attendees
Fishbach wasn’t the only familiar face at the rally. Michael Lindell, a.k.a. the My Pillow guy, a noted fan of Trump's and a native Minnesotan, drew small crowds.
Jennifer Carnahan, the Minnesota Republican Chairwoman, said she could feel the excitement of Bemidjians in the air this morning when she was on the radio at Bemidji Woolen Mills.
She said she hoped the president would address the Minnesota economy and early voting.
Former county commissioner Joe Vene took the stage around 4 p.m., leading the crowd in the national anthem, just after Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, gave an invocation. U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis, R-Minn., also addressed the crowd.
Area candidates Minnesota District 5 Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids; District 2 Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids; and Minnesota State Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, were present, along with 8th District Congressman Pete Stauber.