Your Village: Why was a pro-Trump parade float driving through Iowa City?

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The Trump Unity Bridge in Iowa City, on Aug. 18, 2017 — video still

Eric from Iowa City emailed Little Village to ask if the Donald Trump-themed parade float that drove through downtown on Friday morning is part of some bigger, planned event.

“We’re doing a coast-to-coast tour right now,” Rob Cortis, owner of the Trump Unity Bridge, said.

Little Village reached Cortis by phone, as he was driving to Mason City, the only scheduled tour stop for the Trump Unity Bridge in Iowa. Cortis has been driving around the country with it since last October.

“We were already supporting President Trump, since last summer,” Cortis said. “Driving around with red, white and blue and Trump messages on our truck. Then I heard on the news that the pope said, ‘Donald Trump needs to be building bridges not walls.’”

“So, I said, ‘I have a bridge.’”

The bridge used to span a stream at Cortis’ former home in Livonia, Michigan. “Then I got divorced,” Cortis said. “My ex-wife got the house, and I got the bridge.”

Ironically, his first plan for what to do with the bridge involved marriage.

“I was originally going to make it a bridge for holy matrimony,” Cortis explained. “I was going to put wheels on it and drive it to people’s homes, so people could get married on it. Maybe do two or three weddings a day.”

Cortis never managed to launch his portable bridge-based wedding business. Instead, he ended up using the bridge as a lawn ornament.

“But the city said I had to move it, because it didn’t serve a purpose, and you can’t have a bridge in your yard if it doesn’t serve a purpose,” Cortis said.

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Two weeks later, Cortis heard the pope’s comment, and suddenly the bridge had a purpose.

Cortis said he’s put 40,000 miles on his Chevy Suburban SUV hauling the Trump Unity Bridge around the country. He’s currently solicting money to support his bridge-tour through a Go Fund Me page that explains the purpose the tour is “to show support for Preservation of American Culture, Values & President Trump !!!”

Cortis said the bridge reflects messages from not only President Trump, but also from the American people. “Our messages represent what the people want, from the left, the right, the center.”

And what are those messages? “Build the wall. Lock her up. One God, one nation, one flag. Things like that,” he said.

When Cortis woke up Friday morning at the Coralville motel where he stopped overnight on his drive from Nebraska to Mason City, he wasn’t planning to drive through Iowa City.

“There were some students from the university, and they wanted to take pictures [with the Trump Unity Bridge]. Then other people started coming out and taking more pictures. And someone said we should drive through the little town [of Iowa City].”

According to Cortis, “Out of a couple thousand people that we saw [in Iowa City], maybe two or three had sour comments.”

Cortis may not be the best judge of public reaction to his bridge. For example, he brought the bridge to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in January. Cortis told Little Village almost all the protesters embraced the bridge and its messages.

“Even people who didn’t get it at first, 90 percent of them were happy and embraced Unity after we talked to them.”

But according to contemporary media accounts, marchers surrounded the Cortis’ SUV and the bridge, chanting, “Shame!” until the police forced the crowd to disperse.

Cortis is headed back to Washington D.C., to attend the pro-Trump rally scheduled for September 16.

“The Trump Unity Bridge will be The Stage for American Partiot [sic] Speakers to speak,” according to Cortis’ Go Fund Me page.

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