Tim Walz’s Two Minnesotas

On Sunday, Alpha News reported:

Lisa Hanson owns The Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro in Albert Lea, Minnesota. When Walz issued an executive order last year demanding that all bars and restaurants close their doors in the name of COVID-19 prevention, she did not comply. This resulted in her being convicted of six criminal misdemeanors on Thursday following a trial that took less than a week and a jury deliberation that took only a few hours.

She is now serving a 90-day jail sentence.

Alpha News’ Kyle Hooten contrasted this with the treatment of Mike Forcia. Two days before Hanson’s conviction, the state dismissed the criminal case against him:

Forcia is the man who orchestrated the tearing down of the statue of Christopher Columbus that used to sit outside the Capitol. The statue was a gift from the Italian American community presented in 1931.

He admitted to heading up the effort to vandalize the statue, organized protesters at the event and can be seen cheering as it falls in several videos of the event.

Forcia completed community service as a condition of having the case dismissed. According to court documents, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office supported a dismissal, citing a Minnesota policy that favors “alternatives to conviction and confinement for people who have not previously been convicted of a crime.”

Like Forcia, Hanson has no prior criminal convictions.

I have written a lot recently about how Minnesota’s judges have been working to keep even violent, repeat offenders out of jail. It is sobering to note that Hanson — who has broken no law passed by elected legislators — would probably have gotten off more lightly if she’d pistol-whipped someone.

This has been a consistent theme of the Walz administration, which has sought to apply different rules to different Minnesotans. Last year, a bar owner who wanted to open up was warned by Attorney General Keith Ellison: “My office has the duty to enforce the law and the Governor’s order.” This duty was nowhere to be found when protesters were illegally blocking highways:

This isn’t uncommon anymore. When vandals publicly announced their intention to haul down the statue of Christopher Columbus at the state capitol, the authorities stood by and let them. While grieving Minnesotans have seen funerals curtailed by state government decree, the same policymakers who issued those decrees have exempted themselves from them when they have found it convenient. Whether or not the law applies to you in Minnesota seems to depend on how the state authorities feel about you, how big your business is, and how ‘connected’ you are. That is not how the rule of law is supposed to work.

The governor’s arbitrary rule by decree has fostered this division. There is the Minnesota of big businesses like Target which are allowed stay open, and the Minnesota of small businesses like Hub Hobby which are closed. There is the Minnesota where you are immune from Covid-19 at the Mall of America, which is allowed to reopen, and the Minnesota where you can catch it in churches, which remained closed.

As I noted for the Duluth News Tribune last year:

Gov. Walz likes to talk about “one Minnesota,” but when it comes to who the law gets applied to, it seems that there are two very distinct Minnesotas…“One Minnesota” is a smart slogan. That is all it is.

Under Tim Walz, as Hanson and Forcia’s treatment shows, we now have Two Minnesotas.