Trump rally sparked demonstration

A glimpse behind the organized demonstration that appeared outside Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s local rally


Photo by Lauren French

Story by Lauren French, Editor in Chief

As the sun started to go down over Eau Claire April 2, bystanders outside Memorial High School could hear the “swoosh” of a football flying from hand to hand and a gaggle of people singing along to Queen classics.

While the camaraderie of an impromptu sing-along and game of toss-the-football may sound like a moment between friends, some participants had never met. Some were even there for opposing reasons: in support of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, and against.

Thousands of people waited in line for Trump’s rally – the third presidential event of the day after Democratic hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Across the road from supporters, an organized demonstration of a couple dozen called Eau Claire Solidarity hoisted signs with phrases such as “love trumps hate” and “we make America great.”

“Even though we kept it positive … it was pretty clear we were standing in opposition to a lot of the stuff that (Trump rally-goers) were about to hear,” said Jordan Duroe, organizer of Eau Claire Solidarity.

Despite Trump rallies’ reputation for hostility, and sometimes violence, between protesters and supporters, Eau Claire Solidarity’s demonstration went off without incidents or arrests, police said.

Lieutenant Jim Southworth of the Eau Claire Police Department was there for the rally. He said before the event began, police were concerned non-natives of the Chippewa Valley who didn’t have the same value systems would show up to the rally.

“None of that really came true,” Southworth said. “ … we had people from Eau Claire who know they can voice their opinion in a certain way without having to resort to any violence.”

Duroe said that was the goal of the demonstration. Via the Facebook page he created to organize the demonstration, Duroe advised participants to make pro-community signs rather than anti-Trump signs.

He said the demonstration was more a form of support for the people Trump’s rhetoric harms rather than a gathering of angry protesters.

“We wanted to come together to make a clear statement to everyone who lives in this community that you belong here, you are cared about, supported and loved,” Duroe said.

Despite the anti-violence messages, not all Eau Claire community members supported the idea of an organized demonstration in such a politically charged environment.
Cale Myhre, whose Facebook profile says he studied at UW-Stout, commented on Eau Claire Solidarity’s Facebook page before the demonstration began.

“I totally understand and respect people’s right to protest, etc.,” Myhre said in his initial post. “But as has been shown thus far when you get two opposing groups together even with the premise of having a peaceful rally it generally ends up turning into a shit show.”

Myhre’s concern came after violence occurred at rallies in cities such as Tuscon, Arizona and Fayetteville, North Carolina.

After the rally was over, though, Myhre posted on the group’s Facebook page again and said he changed his mind.

“I have to admit, I was wrong,” Myhre said in a follow-up post. “I was expecting a “shit show” as I mentioned in a previous post. From what I had seen and heard it was anything but. Very well done by both sides.”