Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday activated the National Guard to provide additional security around the Minnesota Capitol complex in the face of potential armed protests this weekend, a week after the attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump extremists.
“We will always support Minnesotans’ First Amendment rights to peacefully protest, but anyone involved in violent, illegal activity will be held accountable,” Walz said in a statement. “We are tracking reports and monitoring the situation closely to enhance our response and change tactics as needed.”
Walz’s activation of the Guard comes as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reviews a Jan. 6 “Storm the Capitol” event at the Minnesota Capitol where some speakers used violent rhetoric and cheered the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Six GOP lawmakers attended the event; a handful later issued a statement saying no threatening or violent rhetoric was used in their presence.
The second week of the 2021 legislative session has started amid a rise in threats against state lawmakers and an ongoing pandemic that state leaders hope to get under control through the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Walz on Wednesday also extended his 30-day peacetime emergency declaration to deal with the pandemic. Because lawmakers are in session, Walz did not need to call them into a special legislative session to vote on his declaration as he had much of last year.
House DFLers on Wednesday also unveiled their legislative priorities, which include housing assistance, rural broadband expansion, testing, vaccination and staffing support for long-term centers.
Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their legislative priorities next week.
Lawmakers have until June 30 to approve a new, two-year budget and close a $883 million deficit. An updated budget forecast is expected next month, which will set the stage for budget negotiations.
If additional federal aid materializes, Minnesota’s fiscal picture could improve.