Aug 25, 2021 - Politics

Protests over Line 3 pipeline, masks prompt Minnesota Capitol closure

state capitol with fencing

The state Capitol fence, pictured above last year, is back. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Minnesota state Capitol is once again closed to the public.

Driving the news: The state Department of Administration announced Tuesday that the building will temporarily close "in anticipation of large demonstrations scheduled throughout the week."

  • The announcement followed news that a large security fence was going back up "out of an abundance of caution."

Why it matters: Public access is supposed to be a key feature of the state Capitol, known as the "People's House." But for much of the last year, the building has been locked down and surrounded by fencing.

  • The closures are reflective of heightened tensions around protests and security in the wake of civil unrest over George Floyd's murder and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
  • Pandemic precautions also resulted in visitor restrictions in some buildings.

What's happening: Thousands of people are expected to descend on the grounds for events this week, according to the Department of Administration.

What they're saying: Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bruce Gordon cited a "number of different events" when asked for more information about the concerns.

  • He declined to say whether there are credible threats against the building or its occupants because the answer is "security information."

Yes, but: The Capitol has always been a popular place for major rallies. The 2017 Women's March attracted an estimated 90,000 people. Protests on climate, guns and abortion regularly draw thousands.

The other side: Organizers of the "Treaties not Tar Sands" anti-Line 3 events happening this week criticized what they called a "decision to militarize the Capitol grounds rather than welcome the presence of Indigenous grandmothers, art, and ceremony."

What's next: The duration of the closure is "to be determined."

  • The Legislature is expected to return as soon as September to vote on bonus payments for frontline workers. Closures at that time could prompt fresh criticism over access and transparency in the legislative process.

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