MINNEAPOLIS — More than three years after Minnesota chose him for the 2016 Democratic presidential ticket, Vermont's U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders returned to the state to rally for the White House in 2020.
Over 10,000 supporters piled into the University of Minnesota's Williams Stadium in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday, Nov. 3, for Sanders' campaign rally, held alongside political ally U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional District and announced her endorsement of Sanders in October.
In addition to campaigning for each other, the two progressive took hits at President Donald Trump. Sanders threw a litany of insults at the Republican president — calling him a pathological liar, racist, sexist, xenophobe and homophobe — ultimately concluding, "This is a president who deserves to be impeached, and will be."
He was met with thunderous applause and a "lock him up" chant.
Omar took her swings, too, saying, "We're going to defeat Donald Trump and place his ideology where it belongs, in the dust bin of history."
"The current occupant of the White House likes to talk about making America great," she said. "But every word out of his mouth is an attack on what makes this country a beacon of hope for me and people all around the world."
Sanders was met with applause as he pushed for his longstanding policy proposals: universal health care, a Green New Deal, criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization and canceling student debt, much of which he said could be paid for by a wealth tax.
"If Trump and his friends can give over a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the 1 percent and large corporations, then we can cancel student debt," he said.
Sanders was Minnesota's pick for the Democratic nomination in 2016, winning March's Presidential Caucus by a whopping 23.2-point advantage over former-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Days before his Minneapolis appearance, Sanders on Friday, Nov. 1, pledged to prohibit the controversial Antofagasta’s Twin Metals copper mining project slated for northern Minnesota, near the Boundary Waters wilderness area, if elected to the Oval Office.
In a Friday statement, Boundary Waters Action Fund Director Alex Falconer said he was "thrilled that Senator Sanders is pledging Boundary Waters protection and standing up against the corporate greed of international mining companies looking to exploit and destroy America’s most special places."
Sanders' stance starkly opposed Trump's consistent pro-mining message. In addition to tariffs the administration has placed on foreign steel, Trump has reopened northern Minnesota's Superior National Forest and Iron Range to industry.
At his Oct. 10 rally in downtown Minneapolis, Trump said the region is "back in business" thanks to him, after former President Barack Obama's administration halted mining projects due to environmental concerns.
"In the previous administration, they put our nation’s natural resources under lock and key, including thousands and thousands of acres in a place called Superior National Forest," Trump said. "Last year, I traveled to Duluth and announced that we would be ending this injustice, reopening Superior National Forest, and restoring mineral exploration for the iron ore mines of Minnesota."
Minnesota holds the longest streak in the nation of supporting Democratic presidential candidates. But Trump hopes to break that streak after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton clinched the state's majority by only a 1.5-point margin in 2016. With Trump's 2020 campaign pouring tens of millions of dollars into Minnesota, Republican party leaders hope the president can build momentum for candidates down the ballot.
In a news release ahead of Sunday's rally, Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan called for Minnesota U.S. Reps. Angie Craig, 2nd District; Dean Phillips, 3rd District; and Collin Peterson, 7th District; to "disavow Sanders’ radical agenda"
"While it is clear that Omar, Sanders and the squad have taken over the Democrat Party, Minnesotans deserve their elected officials to stand up against these dangerous policies," Carnahan said. "Their extreme, socialist agenda will bankrupt America, all at the expense of middle-class families."
Melody Black, 53, made the drive from Red Wing on Sunday night to voice for her support for Trump across the street from the arena. Black said she voted for former President Barack Obama twice but became frustrated about the economic state of the country and voted Republican for the first time in 2016 when she backed Trump.
Clad in a "Make America Great Again" stocking cap, Black waved a Trump-emblazoned flag on the sidewalk across from Sanders supporters. She said she worried about Sanders' vision of Democratic socialism and worried a Democratic president would limit Americans' freedoms.
"I changed my views because I love my country and I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have freedom just like I did, and under socialists, that's not the case," Black said. "I want to stay free here in America. Under Bernie, he wants to rule us and govern us. And if you look at Venezuela children are starving."
Matthew Wallo, 23, stood in line outside the rally Sunday, holding up a poster referencing Omar's vote of "present" on a resolution acknowledging the Armenian mass killing was a genocide. The undergraduate student from Los Angeles said he had profound concerns about that vote.
"She's implying that there isn't an academic consensus, which is completely false," Wallo said. "It really, really bothers me."
Shawn Olson, a former state Senate candidate and Sanders supporter, said he made the two-hour drive from Alexandria to again show his support for the candidate. He volunteered for Sanders in 2016 and felt the senator could make a viable bid for president in 2020. Olson said he supported Sanders due to his track record of supporting progressive policy and touted his extensive volunteer network heading into 2020.
"He doesn't chase the big money, and I think that grassroots support is going to bring us over the edge in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, we'll see about South Carolina — and I think we're well-positioned in Super Tuesday as well," he said.
Black and others chanted "four more years" and blasted "Born in the U.S.A." as Sanders supporters yelled back, "Lock him up!" outside the stadium.
Forum News Service reporter Dana Ferguson contributed to this article.