Americans bewildered after racist chants at Trump rally - and worried

19 July 2019, 05:54 | Updated: 19 July 2019, 12:13

In Minneapolis, there is a bustling area they call Little Mogadishu.

Cedar Riverside is home to a large Somali population. It is also where Democrat congresswoman Ilhan Omar rose to political prominence.

This week, she became the target of racist chants at the president's rally. But at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, her supporters had a counter call - shouting "welcome home, Ilhan" with wide smiles.

Ms Omar, 37, was met by a crowd of well-wishers, both energised and anxious.

In Sagal coffee shop, which sits along a busy thoroughfare, men of all ages sip coffee while chewing the fat.

As we talk politics, the TVs behind us blare out news clips from Donald Trump's controversial rally in North Carolina, where his frenzied audience chanted "send her back" in reference to Ms Omar.

The men look on bewildered.

I ask Ibrahim Nour, a sharply dressed man in his 20s, if he was shocked when he heard that racist trope levied at Omar - a woman who many know personally here.

He looks thoughtful before responding: "Yes, I was. I couldn't believe it. I thought it must be fake at first.

"All of a sudden, things have changed and have changed for the worse. I don't know where things are going, but I have no hope in the culture."

It's shaken him.

Mohamed Nuh is more defiant. He's been living in the US for 18 years and he thinks this is all part of a cynical Trump campaign strategy that will ultimately backfire.

He said: "His staff or group who are working with him - they might tell him this is the way you can win again. So I think it's all about bad calculation.

"She is gaining, when he tries to say something bad - or say 'send her back' or something like that - she is gaining new votes and new people."

Fifteen minutes away, a local community centre is delivering a standing ovation for Ilhan Omar. As she walks on stage, they erupt.

"I know there are a lot of people that are trying to distract us right now, but we are not going to let them," the congresswoman says.

She's there to discuss medicare for all - a moment for policy after a week of very personal attacks.

But no one can ignore what they've seen and heard.

"I didn't vote for her," one man tells me. "But I'm here to support her now. She's been courageous and she's not backing down."

There's worry in the air, too. One woman says she thinks Mr Trump is trying to build a militia. She knows it sounds extreme, but like many sitting here, she sees a trend of division that's only getting deeper.

Mr Trump has cast his fight with Ms Omar as a battle of ideas - another episode in an us versus them presidency.

The president and some of his supporters view Ms Omar as anti-Israel and anti-American, and the senior Republican leadership have backed him.

Those labels may stick with the fervent followers, but here it has swung some of Ms Omar's critics back on side.

Many Sky News spoke to said that, regardless of her previous statements, Mr Trump's rally represents a dangerous and wholly unjustifiable attack in America.

The so-called Squad she is part of say they want to avoid taking the bait and playing into Mr Trump's hands.

But with tensions so high, surely silence won't be an option for them or for voters - whatever side they sit on.