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Rick Santorum Makes a Stop in Bemidji

Jordan Shearer | Staff Writer | 2-6-2012

Rick Santorum makes a campaign stop in Bemidji on Sunday, two days before the Minnesota caucuses. Photo by Laura Talaska


Sunday was an eventful day for the small city of Bemidji.  Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum came to gather the support of all those in town, making stops at St. Philips Church, Bemidji Woolen Mills, Cool Threads, and the Sanford Center where he gave a final speech.

Although the Senator was greeted by dozens of excited people, there were also a handful of gay rights protesters who came prepared to have their voices heard.  They walked along the sidewalks outside of the Woolen Mills store carrying signs with messages such as:

“Hate is not a family value,”

“2012 is no time for old fashioned bigotry.”

And

“Small town = small minded

Support all love.”

Santorum did not address the protesters himself.  Instead, his supporters took that task into their own hands, as there were a number of off-handed slurs aimed at the activists.

“Made in America” is one of the main slogans of the Senator’s campaign, which is partly why he chose to visit the Bemidji Woolen Mills.  The company is manufacturing the sweater vests that bear the Senator’s name and campaign logo.  The vests are offered to those who donate more than $100 to the campaign.

One supporter that came to receive the Senator was Dennis Banks, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement.  Banks came with a collection of locally produced wild rice and jams that he sells to a restaurant owner in Japan, his own contribution to the “Made in America” movement.  Banks said that his customer “orders 10,000 pounds of wild rice every year.” He also orders 200 gallons of maple syrup and 200 gallons of blueberry syrup every year.

Along with his production of rice and jam, Banks also does business with Woolen Mills by providing different blanket designs.  During Santorum’s tour of Woolen Mills, Banks and his son Buffalo performed a Native American song on a tribal drum that they referred to as the “heartbeat” of their nation.

The tour then progressed by going to the various stations throughout the factory so that Santorum could get an idea of how everything is actually made.  It was during this time that the he met the employee Natasha Trett, a Ukrainian immigrant who is working on obtaining her citizenship.  According to her husband, she worked at the factory to earn money to support her two sons who still live in the Ukraine.  He proudly explained that she did not need to have the job; the two of them are financially set without it, but it is her integrity that drives her to do it for her children.

Long time journalist Brad Swenson sat down to interview Santorum while still at the Woolen Mills, during which time they sat in the same two chairs that were used by Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower when they visited Minnesota in 1956.  Bill Batchelder, president of the Woolen Mills commented that it was “ceremoniously fitting.”

The first question Swenson asked Santorum was what he thought of Bemidji.  Santorum responded very confidently by stating, “I can’t say that I’ve felt any more welcome in any other part of the country than I have here.” This statement was later reaffirmed when a young boy named Cooper presented a stuffed Paul and Babe doll as a gift for Santorum’s daughter Bella.

The two men went on to discuss how the “Made in America” plan can re-institute a large number of manufacturing jobs for American workers.  The idea for accomplishing this plan is to reduce the government imposed costs that make it more expensive to produce goods domestically than it does to outsource them to foreign countries.  Santorum said that if the costs, regulations and oversight can be made competitive with other countries, “the productivity of the American worker and the advantages of being in this country will more than offset the labor costs.”

Following his tour of Woolen Mills, Santorum visited Cool Threads, which is in charge of the embroidering for the campaign sweater vests.  Afterwards, he walked over to the Paul & Babe statue for a number of photographs before heading to the rally at the Sanford Center.

For his final speech of the day, Santorum spoke of the warped power struggle in America.  He commented on how the current status of this nation is to rule from the top down where the government gives people their rights and then tells them exactly what they can and cannot do with them.  This is not the way it is supposed to be, Santorum said.  Rather, he said “The government is there to protect your rights, not to give you rights,” and that “any right the government can give you, the government can take away.”  The proposed alternative is to govern the country from the bottom up.

It is because of this need for a power switch that Santorum is calling this upcoming election “the most important election of your life.”