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Minnesota Senate to hold hearings on Twin Cities riots

DFLers upset, call for criminal justice reforms instead.

The Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate will be holding hearings on the aftermath and unrest following George Floyd's death, but Democrats are saying if Republicans are concerned about accountability, they should instead be focused on passing criminal justice reforms. 

On Thursday, the one-month anniversary of Floyd's death by Minneapolis police, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, announced that starting July 1, a Senate Oversight Committee will hold hearings focused on the state and local responses to the days of unrest following Floyd's May 25 killing. 

"We all witnessed the destruction of businesses – some in broad daylight – with no police response and the question was, 'Who decided the looters would be allowed to do that?'" Gazelka said, also mentioning the destruction of the 3rd Precinct and the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue at the state Capitol, asking who allowed these things to happen? 

"I think the public demands answers," Gazelka said. "And that's why we want to hold these hearings and also because if we wait too long we begin to forget what happened and when."

Gazelka said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, will chair the committee and will announce in the coming days the other committee members and the layout of the hearing process.

Senate won't have hearings on Floyd's death

Gazelka said Thursday the Senate won't hold hearings on Floyd's death.

"I think there's enough people looking at the actual death of George Floyd and the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department that we don't need to spend time in that direction," Gazelka said, noting the Minnesota Attorney General and state Department of Human Rights are investigating. 

"I think we're fine there," Gazelka added. "Nobody's talking about what went wrong and the steps that happened from the death of George Floyd forward." 

POCI Caucus, DFLers call for criminal justice reforms

Members of the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus in the Minnesota Legislature responded to Gazelka's announcement, saying if oversight of law enforcement is the goal, Republicans should advance criminal justice reforms instead. 

The caucus' full statement reads: 

“If oversight of law enforcement is the goal, Senate Republicans must quickly join the POCI Caucus to advance real criminal justice reforms. Why – five days after Senate Republicans walked away from this serious work – hasn’t Senator Gazelka yet responded to the House’s counteroffer during the special session to meet demands of the people for police accountability?

“There will be time to address the civil unrest that occurred in the days following George Floyd’s senseless killing, but the work to enact transformative, systemic changes within law enforcement is urgent, and Black, Indigenous, and communities of color can’t wait any longer for change. Senate Republicans have a duty to resume these critical discussions right now, or status quo systems that have failed Minnesotans for generations will continue to prevail.”

Meanwhile, Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent called this "deeply discouraging and troubling."

"It is deeply discouraging and troubling to see Senate Republicans prioritize hearings that completely fail to address racial disparities within our criminal justice system. They should instead prioritize hearings on the POCI Caucus-led proposal to keep systems accountable," Kent said. "Minnesotans statewide are asking us to do our jobs and take meaningful action. The one informational hearing on weak proposals doesn't cut it. It is now abundantly clear they were never really interested in passing critical legislation."

The Minnesota Legislature during a Special Session earlier this month failed to pass police reforms, with the House and Senate unable to come to an agreement on them despite it being a priority during the special session.

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