A combative President Donald Trump tried to woo a capacity crowd at Target Center Thursday night by taking on "radical" Democrats, the impeachment investigation against him, the Bidens, runaway refugee resettlement programs and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Trump began his 102-minute speech with promises to turn Minnesota red in a presidential election for the first in nearly five decades.
"We are going to win the great state of Minnesota in 2020," Trump said. "This is a great state. We are going to win this state in a very short period of time. It feels like the day before the election."
While Trump felt the love inside Target Center, hundreds of protesters gathered on the streets outside and continued to protest even as Trump supporters finally headed home for the evening.
Protesters burned Trump's trademark "Make America Great Again" hats in the street. Police officers extinguished the bonfire and tried to maintain order, using pepper spray on some. Others complained of chemical irritants in the air, and many protesters were coughing and covering their faces.
"Hands up don't shoot!" the crowd chanted as they faced off with police on horses.
Trump took aim at Omar, calling her "a disgrace to our country and she is one of the big reasons that I'm going to win and the Republican Party is going to win Minnesota in 13 months."
Minnesota hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972, when it voted for Richard Nixon over George McGovern.
Trump fell about 45,000 votes short of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. He has had staff in the state since June busy building a network to turn out supporters next November.
It is the president's first rally since an impeachment investigation began in Washington two weeks ago.
He defended his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of the impeachment investigation as a "totally appropriate, casual, beautiful phone call with a foreign leader."
He also doubled down on his attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, repeatedly calling him "Sleepy Joe" and questioning Hunter Biden's business practices.
More than an hour into his speech, the president turned to immigration and refugee resettlement programs that brought many Somalis to Minnesota. "We will always protect American families first and that has not been done in Minnesota."
"You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and your own neighborhoods," he said, adding that no refugees will be place in a city or state without the concent of the governor or mayor. He suggested people "speak to your mayor."
"Consent given," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted in response. "Immigrants and refugees are welcome in Minneapolis."
Omar also responded to Trump's attacks against her on Twitter: "His hate is no match for our movement," the Minneapolis congresswoman said.
Trump took several jabs at Frey, who has engaged in a running Twitter battle with Trump over the president's rhetoric and the cost to the city of his trip, calling him a "bad mayor."
Before the president's rally, Frey issued a proclamation declaring Thursday "Love Trumps Hate" day in the city.
Trump invited Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police union, to the stage, along with other officers, all of them dressed in red "Cops for Trump" T-shirts. Kroll has been battling the city this past week over new restrictions on officers wearing uniforms in support of candidates at political events. The union then began selling the T-shirts this week, which many supporters were wearing, including a group standing behind the podium as Trump spoke.
"How can you thank this guy for everything he's done for law enforcement?" said Kroll, as the president stood beside him. "Wonderful president."
Trump gave shout-outs to many Minnesota Republicans in the audience, including U.S. Reps. Pete Stauber and Tom Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, both of whom flew to Minnesota with the president on Air Force One. He acknowledged U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn and Minnesota Senate GOP Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, who were among the local dignitaries to greet him at the airport.
He endorsed former Rep. Jason Lewis, who is running for Senate against Sen. Tina Smith. He called him "your next Republican senator from Minnesota."
He also took credit for opening up the Iron Range and Superior National Forest to mineral exploration. "Now the Iron Range is back in business," he told the crowd.
A day of politics
Both sides of the political spectrum spent the day preparing for Trump's visit.
At a morning gathering of elected Democratic officials at City Hall, Frey said city leaders govern with respect and "value our beautiful, diverse communities. They bring us strength."
On the other side of the political spectrum, a smattering of "Bikers for Trump" gathered at The Joint in Minneapolis, though the bartender emphasized the bar was just a place to meet and has no political allegiance.
An enterprising marketer was at the gathering distributing gift bags, courtesy of a law firm that represents bikers who get in wrecks.
James Lessard of Vadnais Heights, who rides an Ultra Classic Harley-Davidson, said the United States "got weaker" under President Barack Obama. "And we're getting stronger with Trump," he said.
Lessard said he daily spends time on Twitter and Facebook urging his social media followers to back Trump.
"He is our president, and the left is making it so difficult to do his job for the people," he said.
The president's supporters started lining up for the rally as early as Wednesday, with many gathering in the skyways with their own folding chairs. The line for one Target Center entrance snaked through the skyway.
Rich Sanders, 28, of North Carolina, said that when he arrived at 6 a.m., there were already 300 people in line. Sanders, who was selling Trump hats and flags, said most of the people he spoke with were from the suburbs — something he said he's noticed at most of the rallies he's attended.
Staff writers Stephen Montemayor, Patrick Condon, Maya Rao, Mara Klecker, J. Patrick Coolican and Jessie Van Berkel contributed to this report.