WORTHINGTON — Ahead of U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn's scheduled Nobles County town hall event Monday evening, a group of about 30 area residents gathered outside the Nobles County Government Center to protest Hagedorn's support of President Donald Trump.
Organizer Deb Hogenson said the decision to protest stemmed from the weekend shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, which multiple sources have said resulted from Trump's incitement of violence toward immigrants and people of color.
"I woke up and said, 'Enough is enough,'" Hogenson described of her reaction to the news of the shootings. Knowing that Hagedorn would be visiting Worthington on Monday, she quickly organized a group and started spreading the word.
Hogenson said she chose the Hagedorn town hall for the protest because "Rep. Hagedorn went to Washington saying he was Trump's man." The protesters' purpose, she added, was to influence Hagedorn to stand up against Trump's hateful language.
"Language and how we use it can heal or it can divide and injure," Hogenson said. "The president is using it for the latter.
"I cried when I heard about that mother and father (in El Paso) who died shielding their baby from gunfire. They were targeted because they were Latino. It happened because Trump used words like 'invasion' and 'infestation.'"
Although Hogenson currently serves as the vice president of the Minnesota First Congressional District DFL, she said Monday's protest was deeper than merely party lines.
"This isn't a DFL thing," she said. "It's a people thing. We're worried about the members of our community."
"(Hagedorn) has the power," she said, "so as a voter, I will ask him (to make a change). We are asking Rep. Hagedorn to stand up for us, not Trump."
Among the protesters were some of Worthington's youths.
"I'm here to stand up for my people," Saleen Thepmontry, 16, said of her participation. "I'm here to speak up that it's not OK for Trump to only support white people."
"I'm here for brown people like me and my family," said Brittany Rodriguez, 15. She added that she hopes to see change in Washington as a result of Monday's protest.
"I hope that the shootings will happen less often," Thepmontry added. "I don't think it's right for children to feel scared in a place where they should feel at home. I don't think it's right for people of color to feel like they don't belong here."
Rodriguez and Thepmontry related that twice each school year, they endure school shooting drills, which include realistic gunfire sound effects. The young women described the fear they experience during the drills and expressed disappointment that the drills are necessary.
They believe Hagedorn can play a role in reducing the risk of school shootings by encouraging Trump to change how he talks about immigrants and people of color.