Several BIPOC business owners, many of whom come from immigrant backgrounds, have been left feeling scarred by the rioting that swept through the Twin Cities in late May and early June. It also doesn't help that they feel the Democratic Party establishment that has ruled Minneapolis and Saint Paul for decades, including mayors Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter, has completely bungled the response to the wave of civil unrest.
Flora Westbrooks, an African American business owner who lost the hair salon that she owned since 1986 to the Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters back in late May, was visited by Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the president. They went to the pile of rubble that used to be her business, Flora's Hair Design, in the Near North neighborhood of northwestern Minneapolis before they gathered for a “Cops for Trump” campaign event at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.
“We are going to have law and order in every city in every state in this country, for every American of every race and creed and color,” said Pence in front of a crowd of Trump supporters, lamenting the destruction of Westbrooks' small business, “which is quite a contrast to the other side.”
Westbrooks, who declined to tell local news outlet Star Tribune whom she is planning to vote for – perhaps out of fear of retribution if she declared her support for Trump – said that her purpose of participating in the event was to get her story out there.
“I just want people to know who I am and what I stand for,” said Westbrooks, who believes that the riots are a local issue and that it has nothing to do with “presidential politics.”
New Fashions Tailoring, a clothing retail store in the Thomas-Dale neighborhood of Saint Paul was ransacked by rioters back in late May. It is owned by Long Her, a Hmong refugee who came to the country from Laos in 1980. According to Her, looters caused him to lose over $160,000. He spoke at the “Cops for Trump” event at the invitation of the congressional campaign of Sia Lo, another Hmong-American, who lost the primary to be the Republican nominee for the 4th congressional district of Minnesota.
Her voted for Hillary Clinton back in 2016. Now, he's voting for Trump.
“Trump supports law and order,” said Her. “Whoever is the new president, I need them to hire more police.” (Related: “Where are the police?” Anti-police Minneapolis City Council begs department to stop surging crime rate three months after voting to defund and abolish the police.)
Two other BIPOC business owners from Minneapolis spoke at the Cops for Trump event: Korboi Balla, a Liberian immigrant and owner of a sports bar and Gemechis Merga, an Ethiopian immigrant and owner of a car repair shop. Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters burned down both small businesses.
Because of Trump staffers spreading the word, the contributions on Balla's GoFundMe page to pay for the rebuilding of his bar have exceeded $1.1 million. Westbrooks' GoFundMe has raised over $212,000 from an initial goal of $200,000. Merga, like Her, has vowed to not vote for Minnesota Democrats.
“Say we have a gubernatorial election – I wouldn't vote for the same governor… I wouldn't vote for the same mayor,” said Merga.
“When the president of the United States talks to me about my problems, I feel a little bit better. I never heard from the mayor or any officials in the state of Minnesota. Nobody asked me what happened to me.”
On Wednesday, September 30, right after the first presidential debate, Trump spoke to a large crowd of supporters in Duluth in Minnesota.
“I've got Minnesota, I've got everybody,” said Trump to the crowd immediately after exiting Air Force One and taking the stage. The president had 1,200 supporters in designated seats near him, while thousands more were braving the cold Minnesota weather while standing.
Even Trump was taken by surprise by the amount of support he's receiving from Minnesota, a state that has not voted for a Republican president since 1972.
“This was supposed to be a little get together,” he said, “then they said ‘Sir, we've got thousands of people.’”
Trump talked about how his presidency has delivered on his promises, and now it was time for his supporters in Minnesota to fulfill their end of the bargain and turn the North Star State into a red state.
“For years, you had a president who apologized for America,” he said. “Now, you have a president who is standing up for America and standing up for the great people of Minnesota… So, get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors and get your coworkers and get out and vote. We've got to win.”
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state by a margin of just 44,765 votes. This is the closest a Republican has ever gotten to winning Minnesota since 1984, when Ronald Reagan lost to Walter Mondale by just 3,761 votes. Trump's Duluth appearance is the latest in a series of campaign stops in the state, including a private fundraiser at an estate in Lake Minnetonka, hoping to rake in more votes and potentially close the gap between him and his Democratic opponent, who the latest polls say is favored to win the state.
Learn more about the Trump campaign's recent tours to places like Minnesota where the president hopes to win more electoral college votes by reading the latest articles regarding the presidential election at Trump.news.