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Scott Newman
Scott Newman

Senate panel to probe Twin Cities civil unrest

An as-yet unnamed GOP-led Senate committee will probe the causes of the civil disorder that plagued the Twin Cities after George Floyd’s May 25 death.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, made the announcement Thursday morning.

The committee as yet has no name and, as of Thursday, just one member. Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, will chair the committee, Gazelka said. Its first meeting will be July 1, he said.

It would appear that, like a GOP letter seeking a DOJ probe into the Minneapolis police department—a letter that Newman signed—the oversight committee is poised to shine a skeptical light on decisions made by the Democratic leadership in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as at the Capitol, during the chaos.

“We all witnessed the destruction of businesses, some in broad daylight with no police response,” Gazelka said. “The question was who decided the looters would be allowed to do that?”

He said he also wants the committee to find out who ordered police to stand down and allow Minneapolis police’s 3rd Precinct headquarters to be destroyed, and who allowed a statue of Christopher Columbus to be wrecked on the Capitol grounds.

Members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus issued a joint press release shortly after the announcement. They said there is plenty of time to look into the civil unrest. Meanwhile, the group said, there are police-reform issues that went unresolved during last week’s special session, and they urged Gazelka to attend to those.

“Why — five days after Senate Republicans walked away from this serious work — hasn’t Senator Gazelka yet responded to the House’s counteroffer during the special session to meet demands of the people for police accountability?” the joint statement said.

Gazelka’s oversight committee announcement came exactly one month after Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody. The majority leader said he wants the committee to begin its work quickly, while public memories of the chaos remain fresh.

“We just want to make sure that we get to the bottom of this,” Gazelka said. “Now is the time to do it.”

Newman, an attorney, is not an obvious choice to lead such a committee. He is chairman of Senate Transportation, which a GOP Senate spokeswoman pointed out has some jurisdiction over the Department of Public Safety and the State Patrol.

However, primary jurisdiction over cops and the courts belongs to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee, led by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove.

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