Republican members of the Minnesota House of Representatives in a letter Monday afternoon condemned the violence at the U.S. Capitol and threatening rhetoric used at the rally in St. Paul.
This comes hours after Gov. Tim Walz, in a forum with legislative leaders, criticized House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, for not condemning some of the comments made by speakers at the St. Paul rally last Wednesday, and comparing the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to the riots in Minneapolis following the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
All 59 members of the House Republican Caucus signed the letter that states they "unequivocally condemn the violence and violent rhetoric at the events in Washington, D.C., and St. Paul" on Jan. 6.
"Those who participated in criminal destruction of property and assaults on our law enforcement officials at the U.S. Capitol should be arrested and prosecuted, and those who made threats of violence at the rally in St. Paul should be investigated and held accountable," the letter states.
Republicans then call for everyone to come together and "affirm that violence, destruction and threats – no matter the context – should be condemned."
Six Republican House members attended the "Storm the Capitol" rally outside the state Capitol, which was held at the same time as the rally at the U.S. Capitol and as Congress certified the electoral college results from the 2020 presidential election.
While the U.S. Capitol rally turned into an insurrection as pro-Trump supporters stormed the building, leading to five deaths, including of a police officer. The St. Paul rally was peaceful, but did feature speakers who called for violence, civil war and casualties.
The rhetoric used was apparently so threatening that the Minnesota State Patrol – for the first time in history – went into the governor's residence and removed Walz's 14-year-old son to a safe place while he cried wondering where his dog was, Walz said during the virtual event hosted by the Forum News Service on Monday.
It was also incendiary enough that it's led the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) to continue its increased law enforcement presence at the state Capitol complex for the foreseeable future.
Prior to House Republicans' letter, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, called on the members who attended the rally in St. Paul to renounce the rhetoric used or be held accountable.
During the forum, Hortman said they'll be fully investigating to find out what was said and done and if any of it is worth prosecuting.
Sen. Gazelka also released a statement Monday, saying threats against elected officials and property are unacceptable after learning of threats made against the governor last week.
“Threats against elected officials, public or private property are not acceptable. Any threat made to intimidate democracy is reprehensible, no matter who it comes from," Gazelka said Monday. “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.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature continue to push claims that the 2020 election, which got them re-elected, was unfair and conducted illegally. Daudt and Gazelka, during the forum, stressed the importance of listening to people's concerns about the election, while Walz accused them of "epic gaslighting."
The letter from House Republicans did not mention the election, only the violence and rhetoric that occurred on Jan. 6 after months of President Donald Trump pushing false claims that the election was stolen.
Steps taken ahead of further possible violence
Following last week's violence, Walz – a former history teacher – will visit American historical monuments across the state this week "to call for reflection, civility, and peace," his office said in a news release Monday evening.
The governor will encourage Minnesotans to "reflect on the greater context that led to this dark moment in history" and ask Minnesotans to "reflect on how divisive rhetoric undermined our democratic institutions over time and will call on Minnesotans to come together to restore democracy for all," the release said.
Meanwhile, DPS is preparing for the possibility of more protests and potential violence leading up to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, Commissioner John Harrington said last week.
An FBI memo reportedly warns of "credible threats" of extremist right-wing violence planned in Minnesota on Jan. 17.
That warning came the same day it was reported an FBI memo warned "armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols" between Jan. 16 and Jan. 20.
In a statement to BMTN on Monday, a DPS spokesman said:
"In addition to the fence around the Minnesota Capitol that has been in place since last summer, the State Patrol has increased its presence to respond to various threats and prevent unlawful entry into the building.
"We are aware of the national reports of potential insurrection and are tracking possible protest activity as we stand ready to guard the Capitol and protect state employees from harm. We will continue to enhance our response and change tactics as needed. We have been working in partnership with St. Paul Police, Ramsey County Sheriff and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers."