The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This right is absolute. On Friday morning, people exercised this right through a peaceful demonstration outside the Govern's mansion to protest the shut down. This demonstration was arranged to give a voice to the 22% of Minnesotans whom the Governor has unilaterally dictated cannot open their businesses or go to work.
The Capitol and State Office Building are currently closed to the public. In fact, only fifteen legislators are allowed on the house floor. The remaining legislators must either call in their vote. This is a big deal. It means people can not hold their legislators accountable for their votes, because they can not witness and record votes that are not on the public record. It means people can not easily redress their government for grievances. It means people can not easily lobby for or protest against legislation. It means people can not easily follow legislation. This is why it was important for me to attend the protest and listen to people’s grievances, just as I do every day when I take phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages. I talked with a variety of people from all parts of the state. They included everyone from out of work nurses and bartenders to cancer patients unable to receive treatment. I talked with people identifying as democrats and republicans. The stories of people’s hardships and fears, losing their businesses, defaults on business loans, and permanent job losses were heartbreaking.
When I left the demonstration, to go to the Capitol, there were between 100-200 people spread down two blocks on both sides of the street waving flags and signs as cars honking and displaying signs in support drove past. Most were socially distancing, and the State Patrol were present. I have seen pictures and heard reports, telling somewhere between 700 -1000 people attended the demonstration
Friday afternoon, the legislature passed legislation allowing restaurants to temporarily sell cans of beer and bottles of wine, if sold with a take-home meal, and if the municipality and all local regulatory authorities also change their ordinances to allow. I voted in favor of the bill, because I thought it may be a very small help to some restaurants, however, I expressed my frustration with legislators congratulating themselves on relieving the hardship restaurant workers are experiencing. I reminded them that government has caused this pain. This bill solves very little and we should instead allow each restaurant the opportunity to be creative and innovative in how they protect their employees and communities, especially with outside patios opening up which can allow families to socially distance from one another.
Currently, we don't have a session scheduled before April 28th. We will continue holding our zoom committees and hashing out legislation that may make it to the floor at some point. As a member of the House of Representatives, it is my job to continue to pressure the administration (and my fellow legislators) to not sacrifice the livelihoods of Minnesotans at the altar of false security.
Stay Safe & Stay Engaged,
State Representative, 23B
If you have any questions regarding COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to contact me or my office. We are still attempting to provide regular contact remotely so if you have other needs, please email my Legislative Assistant, Barbara, at firstname.lastname@example.org.