ST. CLOUD -- A rally was held on the steps of the courthouse in St. Cloud to promote a stronger and more peaceful sense of community in the Granite City.

The rally was held in response to Ron Branstner, an out-of-town speaker with controversial views on immigration, scheduling a speaking appearance this past week at the St. Cloud VFW.

The VFW canceled Branstner's appearance, which eliminated the need for a protest, but Bob Enos, another speaker with controversial immigration views, held an event instead.

"[Earlier this week] I planned a small group of people to come out and rally against that speaker, not the VFW," says Jane Conrad of the East Central Area Labor Council.

Hassan Yussuf speaks at the rally. (Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON)

"People like Ron Branstner come into our communities and spreads his fear and his lies and he creates a problem," Conrad says. "And then he leaves, and we're left to clean up this mess."

Keishia Buckentine, Manager of the VFW, says it has been a tough week.

"[I've had] a lack of sleep," Buckentine says. "It was just another reservation and as a VFW, we don't take a political stance and I do not want to be portrayed as taking a political stance, so we canceled [Branstner's] event."

People gathered at the VFW to show their support for Granite Post 428 and Buckentine says she appreciates the show of support.

"Support has been tremendous and I want to thank everybody who has supported us."

At the rally, several speakers shared hopes for a more unified community and tensions rose at times as a handful of people showed up to voice their displeasure from across the street.

"Some of the people here did not like the rally," says Hassan Yussuf of St. Cloud, who spoke at the event. "[Some of them] changed their mind, and they hugged us and we met them."

"The rally was great," Yussuf says. "I think we achieved our objectives of bringing people together -- I think the city of St. Cloud can never be divided."

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON