ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday, Jan. 12, said he'll deploy the Minnesota National Guard to protect the state Capitol and other landmarks against possible far-right violence reported to be planned for this weekend.
The governor during a news conference in front of the Minnesota History Center said he would issue an executive order Wednesday calling on the National Guard to protect the Minnesota Capitol following concerns shared with him by state lawmakers.
On Monday, Yahoo! News reported that federal officials were investigating threats of far-right extremist violence planned for Sunday, Jan. 17, in Minnesota. Similar armed demonstrations have been planned around the nation ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
And Walz said he hoped to launch protective efforts early to get ahead of potential violence. He said State Patrol would also be engaged in guarding the Capitol complex and a fence around the perimeter of the Capitol building since June would remain there.
Public safety officials were also tracking online threats of violent demonstrations, he said.
"You will see a presence of folks protecting folks' First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble and protest," Walz said. "I think what you can expect to see is an appropriate presence of folks there to ensure that there's peaceful gatherings, to make sure that the intent to do damage to any of the buildings will not happen and that folks can go about doing their daily things without interference from folks who choose to disrupt."
He noted that there is "history" to remember in Minnesota specifically, with President Donald Trump famously tweeting "Liberate Minnesota!" in April in response to Walz's coronavirus emergency powers, inspiring his supporters to protest in front of the governor's mansion in Saint Paul.
Walz also called on Minnesotans to focus on civility and respect less than week after a mob of Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol. Five people, including a police officer, died during the ransacking of the U.S. Capitol building as rioters broke in and attempted to disrupt the certification of the presidential election. The governor kicked off a three-day tour around the state touting his message and his "One Minnesota" mantra.
"I'm not asking people to move on, because I, for one, am not ready to move on from seeing the U.S. flag ripped off the Capitol and replaced by something with a man's name on it," Walz said. "That's not who we are."
The violence at the U.S. Capitol and violent rhetoric closer to home sparked a dust-up between legislative leaders and the governor on Monday during a historically civil panel discussion hosted by the Forum News Service as they took up the subject of violence at the U.S. Capitol and rhetoric that inflamed a mob that stormed there last week.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, acknowledged that Biden was the president-elect and condemned violence at the U.S. Capitol. But they continued to raise concerns about election fraud and failed to label as untrue a narrative advanced by President Donald Trump that President-elect Joe Biden “stole” the election.
Their comments irked Gov. Tim Walz, who said he’d been the subject of threats last week and his son had been evacuated from the governor’s residence in St. Paul out of concerns for his safety. Walz, along with House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, D-Woodbury, challenged the comments from their GOP peers
“This denial of the rhetoric that was pushed from our president, continues to be pushed, that there was a fake election, to undermine our system, is simply beyond the pale,” Walz said Monday.
And while all five leaders in the discussion Monday called for cooler rhetoric and for peaceful demonstrations, Minnesota Republicans in the Senate and House later Monday afternoon issued separate statements condemning violence at the U.S. Capitol, as well as violent comments, there and at a smaller rally in St. Paul. A handful of GOP lawmakers who’d attended or spoken at the “Storm the Capitol” rally in Minnesota signed onto the letters.
“Threats against elected officials, public or private property are not acceptable,” Gazelka said in a statement. “Any threat made to intimidate democracy is reprehensible, no matter who it comes from. That’s why I made comments this morning that we all must ‘lower the tone.’ You may feel angry, or feel you have been wronged, but that is never an excuse for violent language or destructive behavior.”