Thousands of anti-Trump protesters lit bonfires, burned ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, waved signs, and denounced the president while he held a rally next door inside the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Police used pepper stay as a small number of Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters got into skirmishes.
Witnesses on the ground described a tense scene, with some anti-Trump protesters calling police pigs.
A number of officers in riot gear stood in a row just a few feet away, squaring off against protesters holding signs.
Large crowds of anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday
The protesters held signs condemning President Trump, who arrived in the Twin Cities to boost local support for his re-election
There were no reported incidents of violence, though the scene was tense as riot police faced off with demonstrators
The confrontations were largely verbal, as there did not appear to be any violent clashes, according to witnesses who posted clips on social media.
Several protesters wore masks, and some chanted, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot!’
But the protest quickly appeared to ebb, with protesters beginning an impromptu march.
Trump was near the end of his speech by then, and the crowd of thousands had thinned well before the confrontation.
The scenes outside the Target Center stood in stark contrast to the rally inside, where Trump pledged to ‘keep America great’ while criticizing the heavily Democratic city that hosted him.
Trump was defiant in the face of an impeachment probe Thursday as he sought to convert the threat to his presidency into a weapon on the campaign trail, with biting and unsupported attacks on potential Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Confronting an investigation provoked by his unprecedented calls for Ukraine and then China to assist in digging up dirt on his political rivals, Trump continued to lay into Biden and his son Hunter, whom he and his allies have accused, without evidence, of illegally profiting off his father’s office.
‘The Bidens got rich, and that is substantiated, while America got robbed,’ Trump said.
While the young Biden did have business interest overseas while he father was in office, there is no evidence of misconduct.
The image above shows police using pepper spray against protesters outside the Target Center in Minneapolis on Thursday
An anti-Trump protester is seen holding up a sign that reads: ‘A tiny sign for a tiny man with a tiny brain and no heart’
Trump wants to flip Minnesota, a state that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, red next year
Anti-Trump protesters braved the rain and chilly weather as temperatures dipped into the 50s by late Thursday evening
The Twin Cities is a bastion of liberalism in the United States as the area votes overwhelmingly for the Democrats
Anti-Trump protesters left no doubt as to where they stand on whether the president should be impeached
Several anti-Trump protesters held signs with explicit language denouncing the president in Minneapolis on Thursday
Police with bicycles form a wall around the perimeter of the protest in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday
A bare-chested protester who supports the Black Lives Matter movement is seen lying down on the ground as masked police look on in Minneapolis on Thursday
Supporters of President Trump yell at protesters outside of the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday
A protester pours milk on his face after encountering pepper spray in clash with police outside the Target Center in Minneapolis
A minor skirmish breaks out between supporters and opponents of President Trump outside the Target Center on Thursday
Anti-Trump protesters burn a Trump flag outside the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota on Thursday
Trump’s adult children have faced congressional scrutiny for their foreign business dealings while their father is serving as president, and Trump still maintains ownership stakes in his family’s businesses.
The rally in Minneapolis, the first since Democrats began proceedings two weeks ago to remove him from office, served as a proving ground for the president as he tries to use the impeachment inquiry to energize supporters for his 2020 campaign by casting himself – and his supporters – as victims of Washington Democrats.
The performance revealed a defense strategy largely detached from the allegations Trump faces.
Trump spent little time defending his attempt to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens.
Instead, he cast the impeachment fight in simpler basic terms – a battle between him and the ‘swamp.’
‘They want to erase your vote like it never existed,’ Trump said.
‘They want to erase your voice, and they want to erase your future.’
He added, “The Democrats’ brazen attempt to overthrow our government will produce a backlash at the ballot box the likes of which they have never ever seen before in the history of this country.”
Trump was by his own admission fired up and off script as he spoke for more than 90 minutes. Few of his political opponents were spared from insults.
Donald Trump defended himself Thursday against the impeachment inquiry against him at his first campaign rally since the investigation started
President Trump praised all the red t-shirts worn by his rally goers
Trump campaign is selling ‘Where’s Hunter?’ t-shirts at $25 each
He said Biden ‘was only a good vice president because he knew how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.’
He called Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar ‘a disgrace’ and an ‘America-hating socialist.’
He said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ‘really stupid.’
Omar responded on Twitter, ‘His hate is no match for our movement.’
Trump turned his cuts to the nation’s refugee resettlement programs into an applause line and defended his decision to ‘bring our soldiers back home’ from Syria, as he faces criticism for abandoning the U.S.’s Kurdish allies to an attack by Turkey.
Before Trump took the stage, his son Eric warmed up the crowd with an attack on the Bidens.
The younger Trump asked the crowd for an assessment of how Hunter Biden is feeling and suggested that the familiar Trump rally chant of ‘Lock her up’ – directed at Hillary Clinton – become ‘Lock him up’ instead.
The crowd then chanted, ‘Lock him up, lock him up.’
Trump fell about 45,000 votes short of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in Minnesota in 2016.
He has had staff in the state since June building a network to turn out supporters next November, and the well-funded Trump campaign says it will spend tens of millions of dollars to try to win the state.
‘We are going to win this state,’ Trump said Thursday.
Protesters converged on Target Center, Minneapolis’ basketball arena, hours before Trump’s appearance, eventually packing the streets surrounding it.
Many blew brightly colored whistles handed out by fellow protesters, adding to the din of frequent chants like, ‘Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!’ – referring to Trump himself.
An anti-Trump protester with a ‘climate justice’ t-shirt is removed from the rally at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Thursday
‘Impeach’ signs awaited the president outside the rally as a protester gives a thumbs up sign in Minneapolis on Thursday
But Trump supporters were outside too to cheer him on as well. ‘Feel the love,’ reads the sign held by a Trump supporter
Baby Trump balloons are carried by a counter protester before the rally in Minneapolis on Thursday
Minnesotans braved the rain to protest Trump outside the Target Center in Minneapolis on Thursday
Some clutched helium-filled balloons depicting Trump as a baby, similar to the famed Baby Trump balloon that flew above a nearby building.
Lora Torgerson of suburban Inver Grove Heights clutched a sign that read ‘Liar Liar Diaper on fire.’
‘I’m a registered GOP member, and I’ve never been more ashamed of our party,’ she said. ‘I didn’t vote for him.’
Inside the arena, Lori Glass, a longtime Republican from White Bear Lake, a Twin Cities suburb, dismissed the talking of impeachment with one word: ‘Ridiculous.’
‘He’s done so much for the country,’ she said, citing the economy as Trump’s top accomplishment.
Democrats are pressing for impeachment because ‘they don’t have a good candidate,’ she said.
On Friday, Trump planned a rally in Louisiana against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Aides said Trump is not endorsing one of the GOP candidates in the race before Saturday’s election to maximize the chances that Edwards falls below the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Next week Trump is set to hold a rally in Dallas, a GOP stronghold in a state that has grown more competitive for Democrats in recent cycles.