On one corner, people held signs saying, “Make America think again” and “Build bridges, not walls.”
Across the street, the signs said, “God bless our presidents” and “Veterans for Trump.”
Both sides waved flags to celebrate a nation where the First Amendment guarantees not only the right to freedom of speech, but also "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." You can love your country and still disagree.
So whether you love President Trump or hate him, there was a group at the corner of Omaha Street and Mount Rushmore Road for you Monday afternoon.
A “Not My President” Presidents Day rally held at the northwest corner of Omaha Street and Mount Rushmore Road was joined by a separate demonstration in support of Trump at the northeast corner, organized by Pennington County Republicans.
Both groups of demonstrators vied for the attention of passing motorists at the busy intersection. Police officers were present and the event remained peaceful.
Les Pilgrim traveled from Custer with neighbors to join the pro-Trump demonstration of about 75 other people. He said the message is clear.
“I wanted my voice to be heard,” Pilgrim said. “We were supporters from the start, and we’re tired of being silent. The message is ‘It’s about time.’ We’ve waited for a long time for a true patriot to come along, and we have one.”
Steve Gates, a 25-year-old real estate agent, said he was considering attending the pro-Trump event and ultimately decided to come after he heard about the “Not My President” event.
“I think a lot of people in America, especially a lot of people in our good city, support Donald Trump, and sometimes it’s hard to tell that by the way social media looks or even the way the news looks,” Gates said. “Sometimes people just want to see people they agree with.”
The approximately 150 people in the “Not My President” demonstration seemed to share the same motivation.
Lily Crooks couldn’t vote in November’s election; she’s just 17. Nonetheless, she decided to spend her day off from school to let people know that despite the results of the election in South Dakota, a deep red state, there are still pockets of blue.
“I’m just trying to come out here because I didn’t see a lot of people my age out here, and I wanted to make sure that people knew that it was represented by people of all ages,” Crooks said, noting that most of the people in her U.S. government class supported Trump.
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“I don’t care which political group you affiliate yourself with as long as you have an answer as to why,” Crooks said. “Because a lot of people don’t.”
Jo, a retired environmental engineer for 23 years who didn't want to give her last name, said environmental concerns were just one reason she opposed President Trump and his administration.
“I believe in truth, facts, science,” she said. “I wanted to be here to be a part of the head count and let people know that there is an alternative side in Rapid City. I feel like we’re going backwards. He (Trump) said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ I think he just filled it up and let in a bunch of alligators."
Suzanne Martley was the chief organizer of the “Not My President” rally and said the day provided a perfect opportunity to express the expectations people have for the presidency.
“On Presidents Day we should be thinking about the kinds of qualities we want to see in a president, the kind of qualities that we valued through history,” Martley said at the end of the event. “Honesty, integrity, humility, public service, stewardship, kindness, dialogue — those kinds of things.”
The Rapid City rally was far from the only one. Similar protests challenging the Trump administration’s policies were held in cities across the United States including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore.
Though the chants of supporters from both rallies were occasionally in opposition, people from both sides of Mount Rushmore Road said they were here for unity, not division.
“We don’t hate the folks across the street,” said Rapid City resident Bruce Bedard. A broad smile across his face and a Trump T-shirt covering his torso, Bedard waved an American flag to passers-by as he preached love over hatred.
“I sure wish the guy with the gay pride flag would have come over here because we love them,” Bedard said. “There’s no hate here.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s oppositional because I don’t want to create a divide or further the divide that’s already there,” he said.
As the “Not My President” demonstrators packed away signs and rolled their American and rainbow flags up for another day, organizer Martley motioned to the demonstrators across the street.
“They have a right to be there," she said. "We have a right to be here.”