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Protesters to rally against pro-wall event in Detroit featuring Steve Bannon, others


  • Steve Neavling

Protesters are planning to converge Thursday on a pro-Trump rally at Cobo Center in Detroit featuring Steve Bannon and cowboy hat-wearing firebrand David Clarke.  

Cobo Center has hired 18 Detroit police officers to keep peace after organizers of the “We Build the Wall Town Hall” say they are expecting between 1,000 and 2,000 right-wing supporters. The first two town halls each drew fewer than 300 people, and no violence was reported.

The event, which begins at 7 p.m., was originally planned to take place at a church in Warren, but organizers said they moved it to Detroit to accommodate a larger crowd.

“We moved the venue because we outgrew our original venue that only held about 700 people,” says Jennifer Lawrence, a spokeswoman for We Build the Wall. “We currently have 1,700 people coming.”

A man named Josh Oliver who says he helped plan the event says it was moved after threats were made online against the group. “After the threats, organizers decided we needed to secure a much safer venue,” he tells the Metro Times. “We don’t want anything bad to happen. We welcome protests. Anybody is welcome.”

However, Lawrence says Oliver is not affiliated with We Build the Wall and says the event has not received any credible threats. “It had nothing to do with security,” she says. “The only reason we moved the venue is because we outgrew our original venue.”

Protest organizers Bridget Huff and Cheryl Herrmann said they plan to hold a peaceful rally to call attention to “the inhumane and racist immigration policies of We Build the Wall, Inc. and President Donald J. Trump.”

“It is our belief that our diversity is our strength,” Huff and Herrmann said in a news release. “As such, we recognize that it is our civic duty to combat division and hate wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head in our communities.”

The protest is planned for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Some protesters are arriving as early as 5:30 p.m.

“Everyone has their freedom of speech,” Lawrence says when asked about the protest. “We have our freedom of speech, and we hold the right to refuse anybody, and we hold the right to throw anybody out. If they want to peacefully protest outside, that is up to them. We welcome peaceful protesters, but we're not going to have people disrupting our event.”

Bannon, a former Trump strategist and Breitbart News executive, has been linked to white nationalists through his work at Breitbart, though he has disputed the term, saying, “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist.”

The town hall also will feature former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, who launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise up to $1 billion to build a wall on private land along the Mexican border. So far, he has raised $20.6 million but has declined to provide a timeline or say where the wall will be built.

The second of three town halls took place Tuesday evening in Cincinnati and drew fewer than 300 people. A similarly sized audience showed up at the first town hall on Feb. 8 in Tucson.

Tickets for the Detroit town hall are free but registration is required.

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