ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Senate on Monday, April 19, approved a resolution voicing support for the Minnesota National Guard and calling for the termination of labor leaders involved in expelling guardsmen stationed at a St. Paul labor hall.
On a 42-23 vote, members of the Senate advanced the resolution with supporters saying it was critical to highlight their praise for the National Guard. Opponents said the measure was divisive and could further tension in the state.
Dozens of Guard members stationed at the St. Paul Labor Center on Wednesday, April 14, were asked to immediately vacate the building and were met with jeers from labor union members and leaders there. The National Guard has worked with other state and local law enforcement groups in protecting protests and guarding against civil unrest during the trial of Derek Chauvin and after the death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.
"The way those Guard members were treated was disgusting. They were taunted and jeered. They were woken up when they were resting from their 12-hour shift, kicked out of a building that they had been invited to use for their rest period," the resolution's author Sen. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, said. "There should be consequences for the actions that these folks took."
Democrats who voted against the proposal said they had concerns about directing organizations to remove leaders that are elected to those roles. And they said the measure, which wouldn't have the force of law, could spur conflict.
"I don't think this resolution is about supporting our law enforcement or our armed service members, it's really about making a wedge issue and dividing our country further and our state," Sen. Melisa Franzen, D-Edina, said. "I continue to believe that the Senate GOP majority is tone-deaf at the moment that we're living in today in Minnesota."
Several labor union heads, legislators and other political leaders over the weekend denounced the actions of those involved and thanked members of the National Guard for their work in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest.
In an open letter last week, Minnesota AFL-CIO leaders said some members felt Guard members had stifled Minnesotans' First Amendment rights in responding to demonstrations and civil unrest in the Twin Cities. And they found the soldiers' presence in the labor hall disturbing, the leaders said.