Walz: Family evacuated after threats made during last week's Capitol rally
ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Gov. Tim Walz said the threats against him by President Donald Trump loyalists at last week's "Storm the Capitol" rally in St. Paul prompted the Minnesota State Patrol to evacuate his son from the governor's mansion.
Meanwhile, House Democrats said they were investigating whether any of the six House Republicans who attended the rally had advocated violence. The Legislature's top two Republicans declined to say whether any of the lawmakers who attended should be punished for attending.
The developments come as the FBI warns about the potential for armed protests at all 50 state capitols and Washington, D.C. starting Saturday and leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.
The U.S. House is preparing to impeach Trump this week for inciting a mob of supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol in an insurrection that killed several people last Wednesday. The same day, a corresponding Minnesota protest was free of actual violence but included threats against Walz, lawmakers, and judges.
"I take real umbrage with the idea that what happened here at our (Minnesota) Capitol on Wednesday was OK," Walz said during Monday's forum. "The result of that language of 'taking the governor and his family prisoner' and 'there may be casualties' resulted in, for the first time, the State Patrol entering the living quarters (of the governor's mansion) and removing my 14-year-old son to a safe location as he's crying looking for his dog, wondering what's going on."
The forum with Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent quickly got ugly.
The Republican leaders criticized now-state Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, for inciting violence outside the home of Minneapolis Police union president Bob Kroll last summer.
"If the violence now was wrong, the violence over the summer was wrong," said Daudt, R-Crown.
Walz became angry over the comparison and abruptly left the virtual forum early.
Hortman announced she was investigating GOP state Reps. Susan Akland, Steve Drazkowski, Mary Franson, Glenn Gruenhagen, Eric Lucero and Jeremy Munson for their role in the St. Paul rally.
"We will be taking a very close look at what the members who were at those rallies said and did," said Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. "You absolutely have a right to free speech, but that stops at incitement to domestic terrorism."
Hortman said she would hold the GOP lawmakers accountable but did not say how.
State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, one of the rally attendees, said he left early and didn't hear any threats of violence. He said Democrats were trying to tie the U.S. Capitol riot to Minnesota Republicans.
"That’s what we were doing is exercising our freedom of speech in a very peaceful way, over and over, peacefully," Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said in a telephone interview. "I don’t know who the people are who even spoke after I was there."
When asked by reporters if the Republican lawmakers who attended the rally should be held accountable, Gazelka and Daudt declined to say. Gazelka noted that no Senate Republicans were in attendance, while Daudt at first said he wasn't aware of the threats made at the St. Paul rally.
"A few members went to that (rally), they had some concerns about election results and wanted to participate in that," Daudt said. "Nothing here that happened was violent or, as far as I know, incited any violence."
Daudt and all members of the House GOP caucus later issued a statement saying that those who made threats at the rally should be held accountable. Gazelka said in an email that said "Threats against public officials, private or public property are not acceptable."
A security fence surrounds the state Capitol and State Patrol troopers have closed off streets around the building for days. Minnesota has not boarded up Capitol windows with plywood, as some other states have done.
Asked whether that was the plan, Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, initially emailed back, "Do the other capitols have a fence surrounding them?" When pressed for more information, Gordon cited security reasons to explain why he couldn't say what measures Minnesota would take.
Trump lost the election by 6 million votes and then lost 60 court cases while alleging widespread voter fraud in several states without providing it.
Wednesday, he encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol as Congress certified the Electoral College results showing Biden's win. His supporters did, touching off the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.