Politics and Government

Fallout from D.C. riot filters down to Minnesota Capitol

Law enforcement stand on the steps of the state capitol as people protest.
Minnesota state troopers stand on the steps of Minnesota State Capitol during a rally in support of President Donald Trump on Wednesday. Tensions surfaced Monday among Minnesota political leaders over the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Gov. Tim Walz criticized Republican legislative leaders Monday for not taking a strong enough stand against the political violence in Washington and recent threats made in Minnesota. Republican leaders have compared the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week to protests here after the police killing of George Floyd.

Gov. Walz on protests leading to evacuation of his son from the governor's mansion

Walz remains upset about the assault on the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

The president incited his supporters to storm the building, Walz said, noting during a legislative preview event that a rally in St. Paul the same day included people making threats against him and his family.

“That language of taking the governor and his family prisoner and there may be casualties resulted for the first time the State Patrol entering the living quarters and removing my 14-year-old son to a safe location, as he’s crying looking for his dog, wondering what’s going on,” Walz said Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said during the Monday event that he condemns all rhetoric that threatens violence. Comparing the recent events to the protests last summer against racial injustice, he said both sides need to tone down their rhetoric.

Three people sit at a table in an auditorium.
Gov. Tim Walz answers a question as Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, right, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, left, listen during a legislative preview panel at the Minnesota Senate Building in St. Paul on Feb. 5, 2020. A similar panel Monday that was streamed online was much more contentious.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

“If I hear that it’s only one side, I’m going to stand up and point out all of the violence and lawlessness through months and months,” he said.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, went further. He pointed to a protest last summer outside the Hugo, Minn., home of Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll that included threatening remarks from a current DFL House member, John Thompson.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt on 'unacceptable' threats of violence

“Democrats in this state have turned a blind eye to violence, inciting violence, protest that is violent right in our own communities,” Daudt said.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, reminded Daudt that she had, in fact, denounced the Hugo incident. She also stressed that the election protests by Trump supporters are a different issue.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman on Capitol violence: 'Imagine it was your family'

“We have a situation where we have members of the Minnesota House of Representatives who gathered at a gathering called ‘Storm the Capitol’ while the United States Capitol was under assault,” she said.

“So, you can bet we will fully investigate and find out exactly what was said and done and whether any of that was worthy of prosecution.”

Six Republican House members were at that St. Paul rally, according to House Democrats: Reps. Susan Akland, Steve Drazkowski, Mary Franson, Glenn Gruenhagen, Eric Lucero and Jeremy Munson 

Armed men speak with police.
Armed attendants of a rally in support of President Trump interact with law enforcement guarding the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Saturday.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said the event was peaceful and his comments were appropriate.

“None of the legislators there did anything even close to inciting violence,” Drazkowski said in an interview. “We are all very calm and respectful to law enforcement.”

Still, Drazkowski and other Republicans continue to believe that the election was unfair in Minnesota and elsewhere, even though there has been no proof of fraud or other problems.

Hortman said Minnesota Republican leaders have to step up and decide if they are going to be the party of QAnon or the party of Lincoln and Reagan. Both Daudt and Gazelka said they do not dispute that Joe Biden won the presidential election. 

Walz exited early from the Zoom call with reporters, saying he was disappointed by the direction of the conversation. Lingering disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over the election makes it hard to move forward, Walz said.

"How do we talk about reaching a compromise on a budget when we can't agree that our elections are fair?" the governor asked.

Watch: Monday's online legislative preview event