Governance
Written by John Phelan | August 5, 2020

In Minnesota, laws are only applied sometimes to some people

Laws matter again in Minnesota.

On May 27th, after rioting at the Third Precinct the previous night, Minn Post reported:

Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials applauded people who wore masks and did their best to socially distance at a gathering in Minneapolis on Tuesday to protest the killing of George Floyd. 

Floyd died shortly after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while Floyd yelled that he could not breathe. More than a thousand people showed up to the protest in south Minneapolis on Tuesday. Most were wearing masks, according to news reports. Police cleared the crowd late in the evening by firing tear gas and other projectiles after some protesters smashed windows of police cars and the Third Precinct building. The police response drew criticism, including from members of the Minneapolis City Council, though Mayor Jacob Frey later defended the police because he said the cars and the precinct had guns in them.

While the governor has banned most gatherings with more than 10 people to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Walz told reporters Wednesday the protest was a “pretty normal response” to video of Floyd being pressed to the ground by an officer, who other outlets have identified as Derek Chauvin.

“We certainly believe that there’s a right that people have to gather,” Walz said.

Times change. Last week, the Star Tribune carried an article titled: “Minnesota seeks to punish rodeo organizers who bucked governor’s safety order

The organizers of a rodeo in the tiny northern Minnesota town of Effie are facing state punishment after disregarding warnings not to hold the event in violation of an executive order restricting the size of public gatherings. It’s the first time the state has brought an enforcement action against an entertainment venue that has operated “in open defiance of the law,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a news release.

Ellison on Friday filed a complaint in Itasca County District Court against North Star Ranch for alleged violations of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order limiting attendance at public events during the pandemic.

The ranch and its owner, Cimarron Pitzen, could face a fine of up to $25,000 for each violation of the order and be forced to give up any money collected at the event, as well as pay costs and attorney fees.

“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is everyone’s responsibility. It’s in all Minnesotans’ interest for businesses and events to comply with the law and the Governor’s executive orders so that we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and our livelihoods,” Ellison said in a news release. “My office has been working successfully for months with businesses and events across Minnesota to help them understand the law and the Governor’s executive orders so that they can operate responsibly and keep Minnesotans safe during this pandemic.

“Business owners and event operators need to know that they are not above the law. If they risk the health and safety of our communities, my office will take strong action, as we are doing today.”

Protesters, of course, are above the law. So are the vandals who tore down the Columbus statue. So are those who block highways. So are the attendees of George Floyd’s memorial service – among them Governor Walz. He explained:

“Denying that to happen as a healing on a broader, societal well-being, I don’t think would have been a good decision, but we probably could have done a little better as far as social distancing.”

Not only does Gov. Walz get to the make the rules Minnesotans live by via executive order, but he gets to break them when he feels like it. For proles like Cimarron Pitzen there is no such option.

Needless to say, this isn’t the way its supposed to work. A key feature of the American system of government is that all are equal under the law. You don’t get to exempt yourself from it when you fancy, as Gov. Walz brazenly did. True, this is often honored more in the breach than in the observance, but we should still reject when we do see it, whichever party it comes from.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

 

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