ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers are looking to boost security at the state Capitol in St. Paul after a year rife with protests, potentially installing a permanent fencing around the building or implementing metal detectors at entrances.
The move comes after a politically tumultuous year at the state Capitol and around Minnesota, as well as the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. In the days leading up to President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 20, the FBI warned of potential violence at state capitals across the country, and state lawmakers have said they're seeing increased personal threats from constituents.
At a Friday hearing for the state Capitol Security Advisory Committee, Minnesota's Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said the state Capitol in St. Paul saw 117 protests in 2020, or roughly one demonstration every three days.
Since this summer's civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, a wire fence has surrounded the Capitol building, which has been closed to the public. It's a change of tone from the once-accessible people's house, which previously kept its doors open to the public, free of metal detectors or security checks at the door.
The state is renting the current temporary fence around the Capitol, but at a Friday's committee hearing, Democratic Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said the state is considering installing a permanent fence. Lawmakers are also considering adding metal detectors at entrances, putting body cameras on guards and boosting security manpower, including more sworn state troopers and non-sworn security detail.
Such changes would come at a cost to the state, and Flanagan and other members of the advisory committee will be holding at least three hearings in the coming months to discuss a budget proposal to send to legislators. Minnesota's divided Legislature is due to approve a two-year state budget by May, which will need Gov. Tim Walz's final approval.
The advisory committee's next hearing is planned for early February.