Minnesota Lawmakers Support Upgrade in Security at State Capitol

Recent violent protests at the Capitol and the shooting of a Republican Louisiana Congressman prompt enhanced security measures in St. Paul

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Credit: Lisa Richwine Olson

ST. PAUL, Minn. – In the aftermath of the targeted shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Minnesota legislators are seeking an upgrade in security at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. The security enhancements are expected to cost $30 million.

WCCO cites security officials who deem the new security measures are in response to a higher risk for terrorism or violent protest at the Capitol.

As Alpha News has reported, there have been several incidents over the past year at the State Capitol, most recently on June 11 at an “ACT for America” protest where attendees rallied against Sharia Law being implemented in the United States. Water bottles and various items were thrown at the anti-Sharia Law protesters and several fights broke out between anti-Sharia protesters and counter-protesters. Alpha News Senior Editor Preya Samsundar had her work phone smashed by counter-protesters and she reported a member of ANTIFA stole her personal cell phone. Samsundar said she was harassed and threatened by counter-protesters while covering the event for Alpha News. Seven people were arrested on the grounds of the State Capitol, five from the counter-protest group.

On March 4, supporters of President Donald Trump held a March 4 Trump rally at the Capitol where counter-protesters used mace, air-horns, and tasers on Trump supporters. Numerous fights broke out between the protesters and Trump supporters. Linwood “Woody” Kaine, 24, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine was among those who were arrested. Kaine was later charged on May 27 with obstruction of the legal process, a gross misdemeanor as well as fleeing on foot and concealing his identity in a public place, which are both misdemeanors.

According to WCCO, security upgrades to the Capitol complex will include movable steel barriers to prevent attacks by vehicles filled with explosives, hundreds of closed-circuit cameras mounted inside and outside the buildings, and shatter-proof glass.

“One of the pleasures and uniqueness of the Capitol is how open it has been for the public and that has worked very well in the roughly 159 years of statehood,” Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) told Alpha News. “However, I am surprised, and grateful, that there has not been a serious security incident at the Capitol. That said, there are probably some things that could be done to close some security loopholes.”

Chamberlain said that while there have been occasions where things could have spun out of control while at the Capitol, he has never personally felt threatened.

“While some improvements could, should be made, I sincerely hope we can maintain a balance between creating a closed military camp and allowing people access to their building,” Chamberlain said.

Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) has already taken steps to ensure safety at the Capitol.

“It’s a fact every instance of a mass shooting has been and always will be stopped by a good person with a gun. It’s for this reason I was proud to co-author and support a bill last session that became law and now allows permit-to-carry holders to carry guns onto the Capitol Grounds without first notifying Capitol security,” Lucero said. “More guns in the hands of law abiding citizens fosters a safer environment.  Gun-free zones are some of the most unsafe places to be and we would never want that to happen to the Capitol, the People’s House. With the change in law last session, any bad actor who comes to the Capitol with intent to do harm will be in close proximity to dozens of law abiding citizens also carrying guns who will stop them quickly. This reality helps to dissuade bad actors because they know they will not be operating in a gun-free zone.”

Rep. Cindy Pugh (R-Chanhassen) recalled a time earlier this year where she felt threatened as a member of the Minnesota State House.

“I was in a Civil Law Committee meeting in February where we were discussing legislation regarding protesters shutting down freeways when an extremist group came in and protested the proposed legislation and shut down the committee meeting,” Pugh said.“I was shocked at the level of vitriol that was exhibited by the group. I felt threatened as a member of the Minnesota House. They targeted Republican House members and said, ‘We are coming after you, we will come to get you.’”

Pugh advocates looking into what can be done to secure the State Capitol and can understand members calling for a review to improve security in St. Paul.

“Since we are not in session until February 2018, there is plenty of time to review what needs to be done to enhance security at the Capitol and we should look at what other state capitols are doing as well,” Pugh said.

Security officials told WCCO that they will ask the 2018 legislature to fully fund the security enhancements, which will likely be implemented in 2019.

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