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Amid Trump's visit, protesters aim to create counterprogramming

While a certain visitor to the Black Hills grabbed much attention, not everyone was happy to see the former President.

Though South Dakota has voted ruby-red in recent elections, protesters at Friday's rally said they’re ready to make change in the state.

While former President Trump, Gov. Kristi Noem, and 6,500 supporters filled the Monument in Rapid City, a few dozen found themselves at the nearby AFL-CIO Labor Temple to create some "counterprogramming."

The protest, organized by the Liberty and Justice for All group, comes as some said they’re frustrated with the number of out-of-state attendees at the Trump rally. Jamie Gield, a trustee for the group, said this organization is made up of South Dakotans using their voices.

“Our slogan is ‘we are South Dakota,’ and it declares that our values are united as a community," Gield said "We stand for healing and communities, conserving our natural resources, and investing in our people. We reject all politics of division and hate, and we focus on a shared humanity and seek to build collaboration.”

The protest wasn’t without tension, but ultimately, only words were exchanged between attendees and protesters. In fact, Toni Diamond, secretary of the state Democratic Party, said everyone went to the arena with no plans to take the bait.

“Don’t respond to their rhetoric, don’t let them get under your skin," Diamond said. "I think that has to be our message going forward. The way we get to them – the way we move forward - is by being polite. By presenting things in a healthy way. Asking questions.”

By and large, the strategy worked with many protesters reported engaging in conversations, rather than arguments, with attending Trump supporters.

Ken Martin is the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. In attendance, he said it’s time to mark your calendars for election season.

“We have three commodities in campaigns folks – it’s time, it’s people, and it’s money," Martin said. "We can always raise a few more bucks, we can always recruit a few more people – but the one thing we can’t get back is time – right? Each day that ticks away is one less day that we have to get out there and organize and talk to our neighbors and tell them the stakes of this election. It’s not about party – it’s about the soul of this nation.”

There are now just over 400 days left until the next election.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture