DFL rep who defended rioting now adheres to ‘principles of non-violence’

Finke defended rioting in a speech last June.

Rep. Leigh Finke speaks during a March committee hearing. (Minnesota House Info/YouTube)

A DFL legislator who defended rioting in 2022 now claims to adhere to the “principles of non-violence.”

Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, faced criticism from a fellow legislator for tweeting “just keep fighting” on April 8.

Rep. Dawn Gillman, R-Dassel, suggested Finke was “inciting violence,” seemingly questioning the timing of the tweet, which was published two days after swimmer Riley Gaines was ambushed by a mob at San Francisco State University. Finke is Minnesota’s first transgender legislator and Gaines is an outspoken critic of allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports.

“Inciting violence, fighting, rioting by new legislator Leigh Finke is that really a way you want to encourage people to show up in life?” Gillman said.

Finke responded to Gillman’s comments by expressing a commitment to “non-violent action.”

“My commitment to non-violence runs deep in my bones by this point in my life, as core as any part of my identity. I would never incite violence against another person,” Finke said, criticizing the “ugliness” of Gillman’s comments.

However, Finke defended rioting in a speech last June at the United Methodist Hamline Church.

“So I’m here to tell you that there will be more riots. We remember Stonewall as a riot and we know now that it was necessary. The next riots will be necessary too,” Finke said.

Finke recently received national media attention after being named USA Today’s Minnesota “Woman of the Year” and for carrying a bill to make Minnesota a trans “refuge” state.

Finke said in a recent blog post that the “hate” he has endured as a legislator “reminds me just how real my womanhood is.”

“There’s nothing more status quo than being a woman in public life receiving hate for doing my job effectively,” Finke said. “That I am also trans is almost incidental to the fact that patriarchy and misogyny will always oppose women who succeed.”

Finke, elected to the Minnesota House last November, previously worked for the ACLU and published a book called “Queerfully and Wonderfully Made,” which encourages teens to “limit contact” with adults who do not affirm their choices.


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.