Rep. Ilhan Omar was greeted with cheers in Minneapolis on Thursday as she returned home for a town hall meeting amid attacks from President Donald Trump on the freshman Democrat.
“It feels good to be home,” Omar said into a bullhorn at the airport, where she was greeted by dozens of supporters.
She was in Minneapolis for a town hall with Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, which was intended to focus on their advocacy for “Medicare for All.”
But crowd members trickling in said they were also attending the town hall to show their support for Omar after the attacks from Trump, who tweeted that the Somali-born Omar should “go back” to her native country and stood silently for 13 seconds at a rally Wednesday night as his supporters chanted, “Send her back.”
“He’s threatened because we are inspiring people to dream about a country that recognizes their dignity and humanity,” Omar said of Trump at the airport.
An hour later, Omar received a standing ovation at the start of the town hall.
“I know there are a lot of people that are trying to distract us now, but I want you all to know that we are not going to let them,” Omar told the crowd. “I’m going to continue to do the work on behalf of the 5th (District), because you all send me to Washington to do the important work of progressing our country.”
Jayapal, a leading progressive and advocate for Medicare for All, called Omar “a great American, a great patriot, a great champion for workers … who is shaking up Congress and the United States of America in all the best ways.”
Former Minnesota House Majority Leader Erin Murphy also criticized Trump.
“We have a President who used a powerful platform to incite hateful rhetoric that is dangerous,” she said.
But Trump’s name wasn’t used Thursday night.
Instead, Omar led a 90-minute discussion focused on Medicare for All, the single-payer health care proposal popular with progressives and advocated by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Keeping with the status quo on health care is wasteful. Keeping the status quo with health care is deadly for many Americans. Keeping with the status quo on health care is psychologically impacting many of us. Keeping with the status quo in health care can no longer be sustained by Americans,” Omar said.
“Thank you for showing people that in Minnesota, it might be cold, but we have warmest hearts. Thank you,” she told the crowd.
Trump’s attacks on Omar were “kind of like the elephant in the room,” said Alex Everhart, a 26-year-old PhD student who said Trump has been “gross” in his attacks on Omar. “She addressed it, but also wanted to make tonight about health care.”
Most people in the crowd Thursday night said they had already planned to attend the town hall — but were even more determined to show support for Omar after Trump’s attacks.
“I worry for her. I know that she puts on a face, but (I’m) worried for her safety with the way Trump is riling up supporters against her,” said Stacey Burns, a 51-year-old University of Minnesota employee.
“It was horrible. I almost started crying in the car,” said 26-year-old Audrey Kidwell. “I voted for her, so I definitely did feel like it was an attack on where I’m from.”
Kidwell said what separates Omar and Trump is that in Omar’s first year in Congress, “there’s been a couple of slip-ups, but the difference is she apologized. She’s always willing to take feedback and be better.”
“The attacks were fairly monstrous, and obviously racist and wrongheaded,” said 42-year-old Ryan Smith.
“Certainly, she’s had some statements that I think probably classify as a little troubling, but I think she’s handled it probably as well as can be,” he said. “And it certainly doesn’t justify his response.”
CORRECTION: This story and headline have been updated to correct a quote from Omar about attacks on her and her progressive allies.