Demonstrators host rally, vigil outside Capitol as legislators spar over police accountability bills inside

The Minnesota House and Senate meet during a special legislative session in June 2020.

A lot of eyes are watching the Minnesota State Capitol Thursday night for any kind of movement on new policing policies after the death of George Floyd.

As the Senate threatens to go home Friday, there’s a tug of war on what bills will get to the Governor.

At the Capitol, protesters demanded new laws on law enforcement accountability.

"And so the purpose of this rally, this vigil that we started, we stated on Monday will continue through this week is to make sure COVID doesn't pull a veil over our eyes," said one demonstrator. 

The DFL-controlled House Committees passed a package of bills Thursday. One created a Police Community Relations Council. The other bill puts the Attorney General in charge of prosecuting all officer-involved death cases and a bill creating an officer-involved death review board to track data in these cases.

“But when those bills were proposed over in the Senate, they fell on deaf ears,” said Rep. John Lesch, the House Judiciary and Civil Law Chairman.

That is not so, said Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.

“The House hasn’t even passed criminal justice reform and we passed five police accountability bills earlier this week. Five of them,” he said.

Among the senate bills is one for enhanced crisis intervention training for officers, expanded background checks for employees of law enforcement agencies, mandatory reporting of deadly force incident to the BCA, a ban on chokeholds and a uniform policy on use of force.

“They want to imply that we did nothing and that flat out is not true and that dishonesty is not good for Minnesota,” said Gazelka.

For now, a legislative standoff as the Senate threatens to adjourn and activists threaten to turn up the heat.

"We are only asking for real change," said a demonstrator. "To be treated like others." 

The House is expected to take up and pass its police accountability package later tonight.