Senate Committee Hearing Investigates Law Enforcement Response to Columbus Statue Destruction

By: Sheila Regan

The joint committees on transportation and public safety continued hearings on the topic of the unrest following the death of George Floyd on Wednesday, with a focus on the toppling of the Christopher Columbus statue. 

Led by  Senator Scott Newman (R, Hutchinson), chair of the transportation committee, the hearing began, as had the previous hearing about the unrest the joint committee held a week ago, with an extensive video of news clips about the Columbus statue going down, and the response by Governor Tim Walz as well as Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, who had wrote on Facebook, “I can’t say I’m sad the statue of Christopher Columbus is gone. I’m not.” 

The hearing included two testifiers, Colonel Matthew Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, and John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. 

During the morning session with Langer, Republican senators questioned Langer about the incident on June 10, when protesters toppled the Christopher Columbus statue in front of the Minnesota State Capitol. The protest had been announced at around noon that day on Facebook through an event page co-hosted by the AIM of Twin Cities & AIM Patrol of Minneapolis, and the Native Lives Matter Facebook pages. Langer said the Facebook post stated it would begin in Minneapolis, but the protesters arrived at the capitol much earlier than anticipated, at about 5 p.m. 

According to Langer, his team had a “plan a” and a “plan b” for responding to he protest. “Plan a was to engage with whoever did arrive and discuss expectations and discuss our role and hope that would work,” he said.

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