A review requested by House Speaker Melissa Hortman found “no actions or speech rose to the level of criminal activity” during a Jan. 6 protest at the Minnesota Capitol.
The rally, billed as a “Storm the Capitol” protest, took place the same afternoon as the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Most reports on the Minnesota event focused on one speaker in particular, Alley Waterbury, who said there will “be casualties.”
“We are going to fight. We’re going to go down, there are going to be casualties. I’ll be the first casualty, I don’t care,” said Waterbury.
Another speaker observed that America is “at the threshold of a civil war” and needs to “pull the weeds.”
Six Republican lawmakers — state Reps. Steve Drazkowski, Mary Franson, Eric Lucero, Jeremy Munson, Susan Akland, and Glenn Gruenhagen — attended, and in some cases spoke, at the event.
Their attendance quickly drew comparisons to DFL Rep. John Thompson’s conniption last summer in Hugo, Minnesota, where he threatened to burn down the city and come for “everything you motherf–ers took from us.”
He also beat effigies of a police officer and his wife while standing on their front driveway. Unlike in Thompson’s case, it’s unclear if any of the lawmakers who attended the “Storm the Capitol” rally made threatening comments themselves, or if they were investigated simply for showing up.
At a legislative forum five days later, Speaker Hortman said she would be “taking a very close look at what the members who were at those rallies said and did, and what was going on in D.C.”
“You absolutely have a right for freedom of speech, but that stops at incitement to domestic terrorism,” said Hortman.
“We have a situation where we have members of the Minnesota House of Representatives who gathered at a gathering called ‘Storm the Capitol’ while the United States Capitol was under assault. So you can bet we will fully investigate and find out exactly what was said and done, and whether any of that was worthy of prosecution,” she added.
The Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday that it concluded its “review of protest activity” and “determined that no actions or speech rose to the level of criminal activity.”
“The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reviewed video and other information with the State Patrol, and interviewed one participant regarding comments made at the event,” the department said in a statement, noting that the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office assisted with the review.
In response, Drazkowski said Speaker Hortman “baselessly and falsely accused six members of the Minnesota House of Representatives of inciting violence.”
“After receiving her request for an investigation, the BCA found no reason whatsoever to investigate. This clearly proves that the Speaker was categorically wrong, and she has admitted as much,” he said.
He called Hortman’s “attempt to criminalize the free speech of six members” a “danger to our Republic.”
“She used her position of power to try and slander elected officials who were exercising their rights under the First Amendment. This is nothing more than authoritarianism,” Drazkowski continued. “Speaker Hortman owes an apology to the six representatives she wrongly accused. More importantly, she owes an apology to the people of Minnesota.”
According to the Hutchinson Leader, Hortman still maintains that the six members should be held accountable by “family, friends, neighbors and voters.”