MISSOULA – Hundreds of people gathered at Missoula’s Playfair Park Thursday afternoon for an event intended to counter what organizers have called “hateful rhetoric” from President Donald Trump.
The activist group Missoula Rises held a “Love Trumps Hate” rally, just before Trump arrived in Missoula for a rally supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale.
“We wanted to show President Trump and the nation what Missoula’s about,” said Erin Erickson, the founder and director of Missoula Rises and the event’s organizer. “Missoula is about community, tolerance, acceptance and love.”
Those in attendance listened to speakers like Missoula Mayor John Engen. Many carried signs criticizing what they say is divisive language from the president.
“Politics has changed, because there is tacit approval of hatred,” said Carolyn Schmidt.
Joey Lenaburg came with her 6-year-old son Ryder.
“I feel like, right now, what President Trump has done has divided our country, and people are being less tolerant of our differences,” she said.
Erickson said she learned about the president’s visit last Friday, and put the event together in just six days.
“When we heard he was coming to Missoula, we felt it was important to get our community together and respond to his divisive and hateful rhetoric by coming together as a community, and getting out the vote,” she said.
Those in attendance marched from Playfair Park to the Missoula County elections center at the fairgrounds, as a way to symbolically “surround the polls.” Some dropped off their absentee ballots as they arrived. Earlier in the day, a bus had carried people from the rally to the elections office to register to vote.
Erickson said the rally was a way for people unhappy with President Trump’s election to channel their energies into action — specifically voting.
“We are doing an excellent job of channeling all of those emotions into something constructive,” she said.
Those who attended said they were happy to see people from around the community come together.
“I just see a whole lot of people all for the same reason: We’re a loving, peaceful nation,” said Lenaburg.