Minnesota officials review state Capitol’s protest policy

Published 11:05 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ST. PAUL — Minnesota officials may make policy changes at the state Capitol after recent demonstrations led to arrests.

Members of an advisory panel on Capitol security met Monday to review the current permitting policies for large rallies and protests.

Much of the concern stems from an end-of-session protest sparked by steps lawmakers took to prohibit unauthorized immigrants from getting driver’s licenses. Protesters staged a multi-day sit-in at the governor’s office.

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Other protests over Shariah law and President Donald Trump in previous months led to arrests at the Capitol.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, suggested creating a designated protest area outside of the Capitol building in order to increase safety.

“If it continues, I think we’re just asking for it,” Limmer said. “Someone is going to be hurt by that lone individual who’s attracted to the organized event that’s going to do something on their own initiative.”

Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, said he understands the safety concern, but that he doesn’t want to restrict access or limit free speech.

“This is ground zero for protesting, and all sorts of issues,” Nash said. “I don’t want to be the one that gets in the way of that.”

State Patrol Captain Eric Roeske said making changes to the rules is difficult because every protest situation is different.

“We do a very good job of making sure the last thing doesn’t repeat,” Roeske said. “But they always take a different path and we have to react in the midst of that situation.”