GOP Lawmakers Vow to Return Columbus Statue to State Capitol

Senate lawmakers reiterated their expectation that the Columbus statue torn down by vandals on June 10 be returned to the State Capitol grounds expeditiously in an oversight hearing this week at which the Walz administration’s top law enforcement officials faced blistering criticism over their failure to protect the monument.

“You had the people there,  you were literally hundreds of feet away, you saw it, we’d known it was going to happen and nothing got done,” Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault told Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington. “And that’s what really, really makes me angry and that’s what makes constituents and Minnesotans across the state very, very angry to see what happened. And I’ll tell you blankly, people think that a decision was made above you to stand down and I believe that happened somewhere.”

A month later, no arrests have been made in connection with the crime which caused more than $150,000 damage and whose perpetrators were filmed in the act by television news stations. Only the day before the Senate hearing did the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension submit paperwork implicating three participants to the Ramsey County Attorney for consideration of felony charges that could carry up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“It seemed like the more volatile and angry the crowd or the rioters or the protesters are the less likely it is that they’re going to get arrested because they don’t want to make them angry? Is that what I’m hearing?” Sen. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville asked Minnesota State Patrol Chief Capt. Matt Langer.

Both Langer and and his superior Harrington stood by their failed “deescalation” strategy that effectively allowed protesters to level the public monument without anyone being arrested at the scene.

“Given what we knew at the time, I think we made, Capt. Langer made good tactical decisions at the time and I support his tactical decisions,” Harrington told the committee. “I generally don’t like to second guess field commanders because I wasn’t there I wasn’t sitting there in front of them. I wasn’t having to gauge the volatility of the crowd.”

The Minnesota Historical Society has already been instructed in a letter from Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria to specify when the Columbus monument will be reinstalled and whether any additional steps need to be taken to effect its return. At the hearing several lawmakers underscored their insistence the statue be returned to its rightful place on the Capitol Mall.

“We have the statue, put it back up and go through the process,” Sen. Jasinski said. “That’s the way you should do  it. The statue to my understanding can be corrected and put back up and then go through  the process. That’s what the people of Minnesota want. They want to go through the process. Lawlessness does not work.”

A new Thinking Minnesota statewide poll found that Minnesotans overwhelming view the toppling of the Columbus statue without legal consequence negatively, describing their reaction as disgusted (34%), angry (20%), and sad (20%).