Protesters unite in Wadena against 'government overreach', in support of rodeo
Hundreds waved flags, honked horns and drove tractors through town supporting rodeos and President Trump.
WADENA, Minn. — American flags, Pro-Trump memorabilia, and handmade posters in opposition to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz filled what was already the most congested intersection in Wadena, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 19. Hundreds gathered there for a protest, which many said was to call out government overreach.
“It seems that everyone is expressing the same concerns no matter what part of the state they’re from,” Tom Brula, of Effie, Minn., said. He was surrounded by others from Northfield, Menahga and Miltona, to name a few of the folks that made up the group of likely 200 before noon.
Brula drove down along with Cimarron Pitzen, owner and operator of the North Star Stampede Rodeo in Effie.
The concerns of the crowds were on a similar wavelength, mostly focused on government overreach taking away freedoms from the people to take part in those things they have always enjoyed. In this case, the protest stemmed from the likelihood of the Nimrod Bull Bash facing a similar lawsuit as the North Star Stampede Rodeo if organizers hold their three-day rodeo over Labor Day weekend.
But the concerns shared by many in the crowd went well beyond the possibility of not having a rodeo.
Other protesters brought concerns about mask mandates and large group gathering guidelines stemming from Walz’s current executive orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Pitzen said he came to support Bucking Bulls owner Troy Meech and American freedoms while standing up to the government. He said there are three branches of government, not just one governor.
“Us rodeo families stick together,” Pitzen said.
The North Star Stampede hosted a rodeo July 24-26 with no spectators, but social media posts welcomed people to protest the state’s orders, and thousands came , without social distancing, masks or capacity limits. On July 31 state health officials announced one of the attendees tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. A legal complaint was filed by Attorney General Keith Ellison with possible court fines of $25,000 per violation.
Pitzen said his attorney advised him not to talk about his case. He did speak in general about his reason for coming out.
“The government overreach is ridiculous,” Pitzen added. “The governor can’t keep giving himself powers to do everything, the state health department isn’t entitled to make their own laws and have them enforced by the attorney general, ya know. Yeah, I’m proud to be down here today.”
Melanie Johnson said the Nimrod Bull Bash is her family’s end-of-summer event. She came to the protest to support northern Minnesota, rodeos and Meech as well as to sell T-shirts saying, “Proud to be from the land of rocks and cows and 19 year old cooks.” The T-shirt proceeds will go to support the Meech family, according to Johnson.
“Their rodeo is their annual income,” Johnson said.
Crista Jindra noted the government overreach and how people can have a peaceful protest rather than looting and rioting in relation to the Minneapolis-St. Paul events after the killing of George Floyd in May. With everything happening in the cities, she feels people in smaller towns are not being heard, including in relation to the Nimrod Bull Bash and the health and safety measures required.
“We have a right to think of our own,” Jindra said. “I understand there’s laws and regulations on things and that’s what needs to be abided but I’m concerned that the government is putting more of these laws and restrictions down because of this COVID going on they think they can control everybody.”
With a "Trump Shop" setup in the parking lot at the center of the protest, if anyone showed up without Trump signs and flags, they were easily acquired. The protesters had plenty of slow traffic as all vehicles were detoured to this intersection as Highway 10 is under reconstruction in Wadena.
Protesters spoke about this being a continuation of the Effie protest, and still to come is a protest destined for Nevis Aug. 29 with a similar format — plus a monster truck.