Supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in the parking lot of Plumbers Inc. in Fergus Falls Saturday morning with their cars decorated in American flags, Trump flags, Gadsden flags, Thin Blue Line flags and more. The event, organized by Fergus Falls realtor Roger Hahn, went through a number of complications before it became a parade through Otter Tail County, with the decked-out cars leaving Fergus Falls and going through Underwood, Battle Lake, past Zorbaz, Ottertail, Perham and finishing in Dent.
First, the event was meant to begin in the parking of the Fergus Falls Fleet Farm before heading to I-94 Speedway where there would be local politicians speaking, food, music and a monster truck for what was dubbed Taking Back America Pro Constitution Protest. “Apparently the previous owners of the racetrack experienced extreme political pushback,” Hahn said. “There was threats of lawsuits and this and that so they finally said, ‘Well, we can’t do it here.’”
The mayor, for his part, was supportive of the event being held in Fergus Falls, writing in a statement, “I had absolutely nothing to do with the decision to move the protest. The City of Fergus Falls had nothing to do with moving the event. I strongly support the First Amendment and peoples right to protest peacefully and I have no reason to believe this would not be peaceful.”
The protest was then moved to New York Mills behind VFW Post 3289 and would include a parade from the Fleet Farm parking lot to New York Mills. According to flyers promoting the event, speakers included Michelle Fishbach, Bill Ingebrigtsen, Torri Westrom, Jordan Rasmusson, Mary Franson and Jeff Backer. Westrom and Fishbach also promoted the event on Facebook. Unfortunately, Hahn said, “The actual event ended up getting canceled because we could not find event insurance in time.”
While the Taking Back America Pro Constitution Protest had to be canceled, the parade was still on. It was, however, moved from the Fleet Farm parking lot to the Plumbers Inc. parking lot. “I figured, being that (Fleet Farm) is a commercial business, it probably wasn’t the best idea, so when Plumbers Inc. offered their property here to us I jumped all over it.” Hahn said. “When we have a property that we have permission to be on, nobody can get upset.”
There were no speakers at the event aside from a few words from Hahn, though GOP candidate for MN State House District 8A Rasmusson did make a brief appearance.
Despite the rocky start, about 50 people and 25 cars, one semi-truck and a motorcycle showed up for the start of the event at Plumbers Inc. “We’ll more than likely pick up cars every town we go to, that’s what happened last time,” Rick Garza, who helped plan the route for the caravan, said.
The original route was set to end in New York Mills, where the Taking Back America Pro Constitution Protest was going to be, but was changed to end in Dent instead. The caravan stopped ahead of each town to straighten up and get in formation before parading through. “We’re just trying to show support for President Trump and let people know that there’s more support in our area than maybe people think,” Hahn said.
Hahn has been a somewhat controversial figure in Fergus Falls. In June this year a video was on Twitter of him saying, “My name is Roger Hahn, I am from Fergus Falls, Minnesota and I am a proud Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating a modern world,” as part of a “vetting” video for Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group the Proud Boys. He showed some supporters at Saturday’s event an email sent to his boss from someone asking if Hahn was the “type of person” he wanted representing his brokerage.
The Proud Boys, which have been a popular topic in media lately due to Trump’s call for them to “stand by” during the presidential debate last week, has been called a “hate group/gang” by the Orange County probation department in California and a “white supremacist group” in a document by the Colorado Information Analysis Center, the state’s division of homeland security and the Colorado department of public safety. While Hahn admits he did go through the vetting process to join the group, he says he ultimately decided not to go through with it. “That’s a thing where I had vetted for it and decided it wasn’t for me. I literally had no contact with them ever again,” Hahn said.
Despite shying away from the Proud Boys, he still takes some delight in being called a Nazi by his detractors. “Minnesota antifa dubbed me ‘the Nazi realtor,’” he said, speaking to a small group at the event. One of the participants shouted, “That’s a badge of honor! They say that, they’re worried about you.” Hahn said, “I put on Facebook, I said, ‘I’m feeling kind of flattered.’”
Hahn expressed some concerns about protestors when he addressed the crowd before the start of the parade. “We all know that there’s a possibility of protestors, something like that, I ask everybody to smile and wave. We’re out here to have fun,” Hahn said.
As they drove through Fergus Falls, though, some supporters met them on the sidewalks with flags and signs of their own, and cars honked and waved in approval.