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Tue Jan 12, 2021, 10:24 PM

Violent threats targeting Minnesota leaders on the rise

Violent threats against Minnesota's political leaders are growing in frequency and intensity, a trend that started long before last week's storming of the U.S. Capitol cheered on by a crowd in St. Paul. The rise came as lawmakers grappled with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last summer. In the backdrop, officials were administering an election in the middle of the pandemic that was shrouded by unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.

Citing security reasons, (Ellison) declined to specify the nature of certain threats that he has received in recent months, but he acknowledged that it has become serious enough to warrant changes to his daily lifestyle in response. Ellison, who has been singled out before for his faith after becoming the nation's first Muslim member of Congress, said Islamist terrorist groups have made threats on his life.

Threats have flooded in through emails, phone calls and posts on social media, sometimes sparked by misinformation. Prosecutors charged a Blaine man in August in connection with a profanity-laced phone message left for Gov. Tim Walz, threatening to put his body in a building the state bought for a surge in COVID-19 deaths and "burn it down." Groups protesting COVID-19 closures have regularly staked out the governor's residence in St. Paul over the last year. A number of state legislators, including DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, have had protesters gather outside of their homes and businesses.

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On the same day as the breach in Washington, Walz said his teenage son was evacuated from the governor's residence in tears after the "Storm the Capitol" rally made their way from the Minnesota Capitol to the family's home. One speaker at the rally said there would be "casualties" and talked about going to the home of a judge who approved mail-in voting rule changes ahead of the last election. At an event Tuesday, Walz didn't comment on his own security but said that the state is coordinating with police to set up "standing up hotlines" for legislators and their families who are increasingly coming under harassment.

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Republican leaders released public statements and letter this week denouncing the violence that took place in Washington. Gazelka said leaders in all parties need to join together to tone down the rhetoric. "I want to stand against anyone who is threatening public leaders and their families," Gazelka said. "We need to encourage the dialogue back to the Capitol and not toward people's personal lives." But Democrats have criticized Republican leaders for not actively combating Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims of widespread voting fraud, which the President repeated in a rally right before a mob of his supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol to stop the counting of Electoral College votes.

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https://www.startribune.com/violent-threats-targeting-minnesota-leaders-on-the-rise/600009849/

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