GRAND FORKS -- About 40 people marched, chanted and held signs in protest of Vice President Mike Pence’s record on civil rights Wednesday afternoon in Grand Forks.
The demonstration began at the Alerus Center and continued north to a grassy area, monitored by local police, just south of Hilton Garden Inn where some of the protesters spoke.
The event, which organizers called a inclusivity march, took place shortly before a fundraising event to benefit Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was set to begin in the hotel. Cramer is running to unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in this fall’s election.
Nicole Ingalls-Caley, of East Grand Forks, Minn., one of the event organizers, said the purpose of the march was to send a message to Pence, President Donald Trump and Cramer that “their vision for America is not our vision, and that their vision is not as widely shared in North Dakota as they think it is. They are not standing unopposed in their bigotry.”
Ingalls-Caley said, “I believe that diversity is a strength -- and that all people, no matter what they look like, deserve the right to pursue happiness.”
Brittney Christy, another organizer, questioned Cramer’s decision to hold a fundraiser “at a time when most people are at work,” she said. “I think that’s an exclusivity thing. I like to have my voice heard. People with less privilege, less wealth get left behind.”
“I think there’s a lot of complacency right now,” she said. “Politicians forget what it’s like to be a regular person, what it’s like to be a family with a devastating illness -- medical costs have skyrocketed.
“It’s easy to forget that when you’re not among the people.”
Amy Jacobson, North Dakota state director of Planned Parenthood in Fargo, said, “We’re really concerned about the Trump Administration and its nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
“We hope to send a message to Sens. (John) Hoeven and Heitkamp that Kavanaugh would be bad for North Dakota,” said Jacobson, calling the nominee “incredibly dangerous to reproductive rights.”
Jacobson also said the administration’s support for overturning the Affordable Care Act would be detrimental to North Dakotans who rely on it for benefits such as preventive health care services, coverage for pre-existing conditions and the ability for young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26.
“We want to let Pence and Cramer know that Kavanaugh is bad for the families of North Dakota, and that the ACA needs to stay in place,” she said.
Other members of Planned Parenthood organization in Fargo as well as members of groups such as the Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America and Indivisible FM also participated in the event.
Will Lovelace, of Grand Forks, who helped to organize the event, said he “wanted to be visible and show not only the Grand Forks community but others, that there are people who live here that are inclusive and value diversity.”
Lovelace wore a T-shirt with the words “Democratic Socialists of America,” a group to which he belongs, he said.
Protesters cited Pence’s positions regarding the rights of people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ commuity, among other criticisms of the Trump Administration, as reasons for the rally.
“People kind of get punished for having an opinion that’s different,” said Amy Kielmeyer, of East Grand Forks. “I believe people should be treated equally, and I don’t think our current administration is doing that.”
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