Demonstrators opposing Gov. Tim Walz’s Stay Home orders rallied outside the governor’s residence in St. Paul Friday amid a growing national backlash against business closures imposed by state governors to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The “Liberate Minnesota” rally, estimated by St. Police at about 800 protesters, was cheered by President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Minnesota who have grown increasingly critical of record job losses resulting from the DFL governor’s stay-at-home directives.
In a sign of the deepening partisan rift over the COVID-19 pandemic in Congress and in state houses across the country, Friday’s rally became a forum for discontent against “tyranny” and big government, echoing themes of the Tea Party movement of the Obama era.
GOPUSA Editor’s Note: It’s not just Michigan and Minnesota. It’s not just America. Do a search for lockdown protest and you will find stories from around the world. People want to take their chances and work to feed their families rather than sit home while the cupboards grow bare.
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Many waved American flags; also omnipresent were flags, signs and banners in support of Trump and his re-election. Other protesters carried handmade signs bearing a wide range of messages: many were aimed directly at the DFL governor, while others demanded businesses be allowed to reopen or that personal freedoms be honored. Signs included, “Say no to tyranny,” “Facts not fear,” “Live Free or Die Trying.”
Most in the crowd, especially near the mansion’s gates, did not practice social distancing. A few protesters wore masks; most did not. The atmosphere was raucous but mostly tame, though there were some confrontational moments at the edges. At one point, a man walked down the Summit Ave. bike path with his middle fingers hoisted in the air. Another man followed close behind shouting, “Spit on me, boy! Spit on me!”
Don Vergin, a 67-year-old retired postal worker, drove hours Friday morning from the western Minnesota town of Benson to join the protest.
“I’m concerned about people losing their jobs and losing their homes,” Vergin said. “I came here because I want to support speeding up the reopening of Minnesota.”
Vergin said his son was unemployed before the virus outbreak. “He’s looking for work, but this makes it so much harder.” Vergin was carrying an American flag and a handmade sign that read, “All Businesses are Essential.”
The rally played out as state lawmakers gave final approval to legislation allowing restaurants to sell takeout alcohol, a demand of the l hospitality industry at the Capitol. Although the new liquor rules have bipartisan support, Republicans in the Minnesota House took turns railing against Walz’s emergency powers and sharing stories about the hardships of constituent businessowners.
“Our citizens want hope. They want to know that there is an end date, said Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria. Franson, wearing a red “Let Minnesotans Work Again” T-shirt, has vowed on Twitter to ignore Walz’s Stay Home order.
The protest also came as Walz lifted restrictions on golf courses and other outdoors venues, a move that was welcomed by Republican lawmakers who have been pressing Walz to reopen more businesses.
“I hope this is just a first step that paves the way for other businesses to open in a way that protects the health and safety of employees,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a statement.
Daudt led an unsuccessful effort in the Minnesota House on Tuesday to end Walz’s peacetime emergency powers and begin the process of reopening Minnesota’s economy. The resolution failed on a party-line vote.
Republicans in the Minnesota Senate also have set up a web page to take suggestions from business owners on how to open their businesses safely and maintain social distance. Jason Lewis, a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, also announced an RV tour of the state to highlight the struggles of business owners affected by the shutdown.
Lewis, running against DFL incumbent Sen. Tina Smith, also showed up at the rally outside the governor’s residence.
The protest got a shoutout from Trump earlier in the day in a series of tweets urging on lockdown protests around the nation. Similar groups have been organizing in other states, notably Michigan, where armed protesters, some wearing masks, flouted social distancing and stay home orders in a rally Wednesday on the steps of the State Capitol in Lansing. Other protests also have taken place in Virginia and Kentucky.
Trump, picking up on the name of the protest organizers, tweeted in all caps: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”
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