Trump Unity Bridge float riles some in Iowa City

Trailer on coast-to-coast tour

Ron Cortis, of Livonia, Mich., stands by the Trump Unity Bridge trailer he is driving across America. He made an impromptu stop in downtown Iowa City Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. (Erin Jordan, The Gazette)
Ron Cortis, of Livonia, Mich., stands by the Trump Unity Bridge trailer he is driving across America. He made an impromptu stop in downtown Iowa City Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. (Erin Jordan, The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A 30-foot-long parade float blaring “God Bless America” drew immediate attention in downtown Iowa City Friday morning.

The Trump Unity Bridge, a trailer with dozens of signs, a carved wooden eagle, Statue of Liberty statue and six-foot vertical letters spelling “TRUMP,” made an impromptu stop in the college town at the request of some University of Iowa students who saw the trailer parked at a Coralville hotel Thursday night, said Rob Cortis, of Livonia, Mich., who was driving the trailer.

“We’re traveling the country, coast to coast, over 40,000 miles, gathering messages from people in the streets,” Cortis said. The messages printed on what look like street signs along the bridge include “Secure America’s Borders,” “Drain the Swamp,” “All Lives Matter” and “American Culture.”

The Unity Bridge is en route to Washington, D.C., for the Mother of All Rallies, or M.O.A.R., on Sept. 16. The rally website says, “Help send a message to Congress, the media and the world we stand united to defend American culture and values.”

Just like two football teams shake hands after the Super Bowl, Americans need to unite behind President Donald Trump, Cortis said. That’s the reason for the cross-country tour, he said, which includes one scheduled Iowa stop, in Mason City.

Some people like the Unity Bridge, responding to the sign on the back that says “Honk 4 Trump.” A white pickup passing the float on Clinton Street honked several times. Others in Iowa City had less positive greetings, calling Cortis a racist and yelling at him to leave Iowa City.

When asked whether Cortis thought his messages might seem confrontational days after one woman was killed and other people were injured when a car plowed into counterprotesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., he said he didn’t think so.

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He demurred about whether he aligns with the white supremacist and white nationalist groups that rallied in Charlottesville.

“People don’t have the right to destroy American property,” he said, referring to vandalism to Confederate statues.

The Unity Bridge had been parked in a bus loading zone in front of the UI Pentacrest for about 10 minutes when a UI Police officer approached and told Cortis he needed to move to another area.

A small metal donation box on the Unity Bridge float asks for gas money, but Cortis said they also get donations by mail and online.

“Occasionally we get corporate donations,” he said. “We’re looking for a sponsor so we can continue on for the next eight years.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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