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House DFL demand GOPers who attended 'Stop the Steal' rally in St. Paul denounce threats, violent rhetoric

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said if they don't denounce the threats they "need to be held accountable."

Democratic leaders in the Minnesota House of Representatives are calling on a few of their Republican colleagues to be held accountable if they do not denounce threats of violence that were made during a rally they attended at the state Capitol last week. 

In a statement Monday, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, condemned the participation of six representatives in the "Storm the Capitol" rally at the Minnesota State Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6.  

They are: 

  • Rep. Susan Akland, R-St. Peter
  • Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa
  • Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria
  • Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe
  • Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton
  • Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal 

The rally in St. Paul was held at the same time as the rally at the U.S. Capitol as Congress certified the electoral college results from the 2020 presidential election. Only the U.S. Capitol rally turned into an insurrection as pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, leading to five deaths, including of a police officer. 

“The violence we witnessed in Washington, D.C., has no place in our nation, nor does the rhetoric that encouraged it, incited it, and celebrated it — including at an event at our State Capitol,” Speaker Hortman said in a statement. “The Republican members who attended this event must renounce the violent rhetoric used at the rally they attended and renounce the seditious rhetoric and insurrection that occurred in Washington, D.C. 

"It is reprehensible that an event these members attended called for civil war and casualties," Hortman said. 

The rally in St. Paul was peaceful, but did feature rhetoric considered incendiary enough that it's led the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to continue its increased law enforcement presence at the state Capitol complex. 

"We've been tracking protests that their public rhetoric ... has been increasingly violent, including the last protest at the Capitol," DPS Commissioner John Harrington said last week, noting people spoke of storming the state Capitol.

Related: DPS prepared for protests, potential violence ahead of Inauguration Day

Also during Wednesday's rally in St. Paul, House District 53 GOP leader Alley Waterbury said, "We're going to come for you" directed at judges who have supported the election results and COVID-19 measures, adding: "We are going to fight, we are going to go down, there's going to be casualties."

Another speaker, who wasn't identified, said the country was on the threshold of civil war and couldn't progress as a nation without violence. The crowd at the state Capitol also cheered the news that Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., stormed security. 

“For weeks, the nation’s top Republican politicians used language and rhetoric that incited this week’s failed attack on American democracy,” Winkler said. “On the same day a violent mob invaded our nation’s capitol, Republican politicians in Minnesota turned a blind eye to violent rhetoric spoken in front of our State Capitol. 

"These Republican members need to be held accountable if they fail to denounce threats made against public servants and our democratic process," he added. "This is about whether democracy, rule of law, and the Constitution govern this nation, or whether this nation is governed by a violent mob.”

Hortman and Winkler's statements do not define the accountability measures that could be taken if the Republican lawmakers who attended Wednesday's state Capitol rally don't speak out against the rhetoric and violence in D.C. 

Though, Hortman in the Forum News Service's legislative forum on Monday did say they will fully investigate what members said and did at the rally and whether any of it is worthy of prosecution.

Earlier in the week, prior to Wednesday's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, eight Minnesota House Democrats registered their protest and dissent in the Journal of the House against eight of their Republican colleagues who sought Minnesota's inclusion in a federal lawsuit that challenged the results of the 2020 election.

The DFLers said their colleagues endorsed a "seditious, unfounded and divisive lawsuit ... in a vain attempt to nullify the fair, lawful and appropriate election," calling their actions "reprehensible."

Fifteen Minnesota lawmakers (eight members of the House), who were all on the 2020 ballot, signed a Dec. 10, 2020, letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urging him to add Minnesota to the lawsuit that claimed changes to mail-in and absentee voting in four battleground states were unconstitutional. 

All but one of the members who attended Wednesday's rally in St. Paul signed the letter to Paxton. The only member who didn't was Akland, who was sworn-in to her first term in the Legislature on Tuesday, Jan. 5. 

Akland, who is a nurse, said Saturday that her speech at the rally was taken out of context when the Star Tribune reported she told the crowd she was happy to see them without masks, according to the Mankato Free Press

“Our actions matter and our words matter,” Akland said over the weekend, according to the Free Press. “And I regret that my attendance at the event is viewed as furthering division. That was not my intent and not the leader that I plan to be for my district.”

Former Rep. Jeff Brand, who narrowly lost his seat to Akland in November, in a Facebook post called for her resignation after attending the rally. Commenters on her Facebook page are also calling for her to resign. 

It doesn't appear the other lawmakers who attended Wednesday's rally at the state Capitol have commented publicly on the event, but some have continued to question the results of the 2020 election, which got them elected. 

Rep. Gruenhagen posted to Facebook on Jan. 9 – three days after the insurrection at the Capitol – about the election, saying it is "clear" it wasn't carried out according to law. Rep. Drazkowski the morning of Jan. 6 posted a video to Facebook stating the election was conducted illegally.

Rep. Lucero in his emailed legislative update on Jan. 8. In the newsletter, he shared a photo of himself and Drazkowski saying they were among the speakers at Wednesday's rally at the Capitol, calling it a "rally fighting for election integrity," which he says is one of his priorities this session. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Franson is facing criticism for making light of the deadly U.S. Capitol riots after reportedly sharing a meme on her personal Facebook page. 

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