President Donald Trump’s campaign accused Minnesota’s Democratic leaders of using “free speech-stifling dictates” to limit Friday’s Rochester rally to 250 people.
The rally was originally scheduled to take place at Rochester International Airport but was moved to the outdoor property of two Dodge Center businesses after Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office asked the RNC for a “COVID preparedness plan.”
Ellison then asked the Trump campaign and the owners of McNeilus Steel, one of the two businesses hosting the rally, for a “COVID preparedness plan.” The event was moved a second time back to the Rochester airport and only 250 people will be allowed inside the venue.
“Thanks to the free speech-stifling dictates of Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, only the first 250 people will be admitted. Without question, Minnesota Democrats had hoped that the president would simply cancel the event, but he will not allow partisan politicians to deprive people of their First Amendment rights to gather peacefully to hear directly from the President of the United States,” the Trump campaign said in a statement.
Ellison defended his actions in a statement provided to KSTP, saying his office “has worked evenhandedly with 80 events of all kinds in every corner of Minnesota.”
“We did not cancel this event: indeed, we have no authority to cancel events and have never cancelled an event,” said Ellison. “COVID-19 is not a political statement, it is a deadly virus and the cause of a global pandemic. It does not exempt people based on their political views. For this reason, Governor Walz and I jointly encouraged all campaigns and all Minnesotans to express their political views safely during the election season.”
Republican Senate candidate Jason Lewis called on 251 of his supporters to show up at the state fairgrounds, where Joe Biden is holding an event, to prevent the Biden rally from proceeding.
“Two can play at this game Keith Ellison and Tim Walz. You’ve been weaponizing COVID to suppress Republicans for seven months. Time to fight fire with fire,” he said. “Let’s shut it down.”
— Jason Lewis (@LewisForMN) October 30, 2020
The president claimed on Twitter that his campaign was expecting “as many as 25,000 people” for the rally.
“Now the Governor, at the last moment, will only allow the first 250 people to attend,” said Trump. “Riots plus Omar = WIN!”
Keith Ellison Restricts Freedom of Assembly of Political Opponents https://t.co/WAPPsfQrWk via @BreitbartNews We were planning for as many as 25,000 people in Minnesota. Now the Governor, at the last moment, will only allow the first 250 people to attend. Riots plus Omar = WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2020