The ‘Love Trumps Hate’ rally, progressive Missoula’s answer to President Donald Trump’s appearance Thursday, drew roughly 1,500 people to Playfair Park.
The rally served as an emotional release for some participants.
Here’s a woman who only identified herself to Montana Public Radio as “Rainbow”. “Rainbow” is no fan of President Trump.
“He’s a misogynistic, bigoted imbecile," she said.
Missoula Mayor John Engen who was not invited to personally welcome Trump to town, couched it in less assertive terms. This is what Engen says he would have told the President had he the opportunity to meet Trump. “I would like to say, ‘Mr. President, the nation deserves respect and compassion and decency. You have an opportunity to set an example for generations to come and I think you’re wasting that opportunity.'”
The group that organized the event at Playfair Park, Missoula Rises, said it wanted to create something constructive. The group provided participants free bus rides to the county election headquarters about a mile away at the fairgrounds. There they could register to vote or drop off ballots.
Petitions and political informational booths were everywhere.
Kelli Twoteeth staffed one such table.
“I’m here protesting Trump," Twoteeth said, "but I’m also here to inspire the Native and Indigenous population to vote.”
Twoteeth describes the Native vote as Montana’s true swing vote. She says that carries a lot of power and meaning:
“Just being here – being at rallies, being present – it gives us that visibility. It shows we’re still here and still fighting within our state, alongside all other people in trying to bring light to the issues that affect Indian Country," she said.
Her top issue right now: Missing and murdered indigenous women. She describes it as an epidemic.
“Every single day someone goes missing," she said. "Every single day we feel like we’re losing the fight. We’re terrified. It’s something that needs to be talked about; something our politicians need to talk about as well.”
Jenny Gorsegner’s top issue this – and all elections – is healthcare. Gorsegner’s 4-year-old twins, Abby and Henry, were having a blast playing in the park’s sandy volleyball pits.
“We’re here to be part of the community, to stand up for love and goodness and kindness," Gorsenger said. "My son has cerebral palsy, so we’re here to remind people that Medicaid matters, that health care matters and that health care is a human right.”
Gorsegner says Henry needs intensive therapy five days a week. She believes Democrats have her family’s bests interests in mind.
“I don’t believe that President Trump is standing up for my family when he closes borders and puts kids in cages and believes Medicaid is the reason we have deficit in this country," she said. "I don’t believe (Republican U.S. Congressman Greg) Gianforte, by punching people, is representing kindness and goodness that Montana does represent.”
Missoula’s Virginia Avery came to the Love Trumps Hate rally dressed as a Halloween witch.
“The is the way that I've found as a woman and as a mother to fight back," she said. "I turn to taking my rage and putting it into constructive crafting.”
Avery says she’s been reading about the burning of witches in 17th century colonial Massachusetts, which she says represents women’s long battle for equality:
“We have a president who openly mocks women, calling them names, saying you can grab them in inappropriate places; it's given a permissive attitude towards that. That’s why I’m out here saying I’m not going to stand for it.”
For all the passion on display at Thursday’s “Love Trumps Hate” rally in Missoula, there was no violence.
Mike Boxell said America’s right wing creates enough rancor and incivility. Boxell wants the left to stay above the fray and was glad the rally didn’t turn ugly.
“If somebody wants to start an action – block traffic and all that – then they’re bringing themselves down to down to their level, plus they’re filling into a self-fulfilling prophesy," Boxell said.
Boxell then pointed to the word “LIAR” which someone had spelled out with giant banners on Mount Jumbo overlooking Missoula.
“Action like “Liar” (written up there) - I don’t know if you see ‘liar’ up there- that is a quiet, non-violent assertive action. I’m all for that,” he said.
Several members of the "General Defense Committee for the International Workers of the World Missoula Chapter," otherwise known as ANTIFA, joined the rally and had a small informational table. Several were dressed in dark clothes and carried black and red flags. They caused no problems.
Event organizer Erin Erickson of Missoula Rises was thrilled with how the rally turned out:
“I have been floored by the amount of collaboration." Erickson said. "We pulled together this major get out the vote event in six days. It’s pretty extraordinary what we pulled off. To see the collaboration across the board, from organizations to community members, it just feels so good.”