ST. PAUL — A law enforcement probe of a Jan. 6 "Storm the Capitol" rally at the Minnesota Statehouse turned up no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Hortman, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, requested that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigate comments made that referred to violence on the day a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, leaving five dead. A handful of lawmakers attended or spoke at the Minnesota demonstration that didn't involve violence but that included violent comments from organizers.
Those who organized the event were captured on video at the event saying there would be casualties as they pressed for answers about the "rigged" 2020 election. Probes have found no evidence of election fraud and courts have upheld the result of the presidential contest, rejecting arguments that the election was conducted illegally or unfairly.
“In the United States, the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech is a bedrock right," Hortman said in a news release. "The First Amendment permits speech that is false, misleading, and hateful, and it is a high bar for an individual’s speech to cross the line and to constitute criminal activity. The BCA concluded that bar was not met in this case."
And while those involved in the demonstration might not face criminal charges, they could see other accountability measures in their communities, Hortman said.
“Those who engage in this kind of speech must face accountability from family, friends, neighbors, and voters for the harm caused by their speech, even when the speech does not constitute criminal wrongdoing," she said. "With the start of a new presidency and calls for healing, I ask all Minnesotans to be mindful of their words and actions and work to unify rather than to divide.”
Elected officials and political party leaders in Minnesota have denounced violence at the U.S. Capitol, as well as violent rhetoric there and at other related gatherings. But few Republican officials have yet to walk back allegations that the 2020 election was illegal or unfair.
Minnesota Democrats on Tuesday called on GOP officials to state publicly that the election was fair and that its results were valid. To not do so would encourage further violence, they said.