A planned in-person inauguration ceremony for several freshman Democratic state senators in Minnesota drew bipartisan criticism this week after a permit detailing the event appeared to show violations of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order barring outdoor gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s department of administration granted a permit request filed by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota for an event entitled “Inauguration Day of MN Senators.” The Jan. 5 event was scheduled to be held outside the Minnesota state capitol with an estimated crowd of 100 people.
The executive order from Walz, a Democrat, banned outdoor social gatherings of more than three households or 15 people effective Dec. 18 as Minnesota contended with a spike in COVID-19 cases. A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Administration told Fox News the permit did not violate the executive order because the inauguration ceremony is considered an “outdoor event,” which allows for up to 100 people in attendance.
Walz’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on the event. However, a source within the governor’s administration criticized the event in an interview with the Minnesota politics newsletter Morning Take.
“While their plan doesn’t technically break any rules for outdoor events, it’s completely unnecessary and undermines efforts to get Minnesotans to take the virus and mitigation efforts seriously,” the anonymous official from Walz’s office told the publication.
The planned event drew criticism from both sides of the political aisle in Minnesota. Republican State Sen. Michelle Benson tweeted a photo with the permit along with a claim that it was granted “in violation of an EO.”
Justin Stofferahn, a Minnesota Democrat and former state senate candidate, also took aim at the event.
“I can’t imagine why we failed to take the majority,” Stofferahn wrote on Twitter.
In a joint statement addressing the criticism, the inaugural class of Democratic Minnesota state senators said the upper house of the sate legislature “has announced new safety protocols allowing the option of a remote or in-person inauguration process for new senators, which will comply with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.”
“Our original announcement did not provide enough details about the safety precautions we had in place, and those that seek to divide us used it as an opportunity to distract from the important work we have been elected to do for the people of Minnesota,” the statement said. “We reject that premise and will be holding a joint, virtual press event on Tuesday afternoon to highlight some of the vital issues we will be focusing on in this session.”
“On Tuesday, we will be sworn-in to begin our work as Senators. While some of us will be sworn-in remotely and others will be sworn-in at the Capitol, each of us will do so safely and in a manner that ensures the safety of our family, our friends, and our community,” the statement added.