Donald Trump isn’t popular in Minnesota. He finished third in the state’s Republican caucus behind Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who can claim Minnesota as the only state he won. Polling indicates Hillary Clinton should beat Trump in the Land of 10,000 Lakes by at least double figures.
But an unruly protest outside an August 19 Trump event in downtown Minneapolis presented the Minnesota Republican party (MNGOP) with an opportunity. And party leadership is exploiting it, going so far as to create a “Security Planning support service” to protect Republican candidates — an entity the party believes is necessary because police officers aren’t getting the job done.
Minneapolis police say they received three reports of alleged crimes during the August 19 protest — “a ‘robbery of person’ where a cell phone was taken, an ‘assault’ where a person had souvenirs ripped out of their hand, and a ‘damage to property’ report after someone spray-painted graffiti on the convention center itself,” according to a Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) press release. No arrests were made.
The MNGOP wasted no time trying to pin the unrest on Democrats. Days after the protest, Downey wrote Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (D) a letter decrying “the abusive treatment attendees at the Donald Trump event received from Democrat protesters.”
“Included in these reports is the lack of protection provided by your City’s police force for the attendees, to the extent that Convention Center security personnel were compelled to escort and physically protect attendees as they attempted to enter the building,” Downey wrote.
Trump supporters run gauntlet to get into Minneapolis Convention Center pic.twitter.com/Ax8lfdqIUR
— Jaime DeLage (@JaimeDeLage) August 20, 2016
But the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), which isn’t on the best terms with the mayor, denied allegations it let the protest get out of control.
“The majority of protests were peaceful throughout the evening and minor disruptions to traffic were handled without incident,” the MPD said in the aforementioned statement. “Any rumors or reports that officers were told to ‘stand down’ are false.”
The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party also denied involvement. In a statement, DFL chair Ken Martin said protesters “crossed the line,” but added that “The cynical attempt by the GOP to exploit the actions of a few protesters for political gain is transparently obvious.”
But Downey didn’t stop there. In a Tuesday press release, he announced his party is creating “a new Security Planning support service that will be provided to Republican candidates, event planners and local district organizations.” While that sounds uncomfortably like a political police force, the release notes that “the assistance is intended only to help with planning security, not providing it.”
That security service will be made up of “volunteer former law enforcement and security planning professionals.”
In a quote accompanying the statement, Downey reiterates the unsubstantiated claim that “Democrat protesters” are becoming “increasingly violent.”
“Starting with glitter bombing four years ago, Democrat protests have become increasingly violent. And with Democrat leaders undermining police in favor of their more violent political allies, Republicans are increasingly voicing concern,” he said. “So we felt we needed to make available to Republicans some outside security expertise as they are planning their events and appearances.”
Trump, for his part, has openly advocated violence against protesters and celebrated supporters who do attack protesters. He even promised to give one supporter legal help after he beat up a black rally attendee.
The MNGOP’s announcement regarding their “Security Planning support service” comes while the party is embroiled in a separate Trump-related controversy. Because the party didn’t follow the usual procedure for electing presidential electors, legal observers expect someone to mount a legal challenge to Trump’s name appearing on the Minnesota ballot. Downey admitted to reporters last week that his party simply “forgot to elect alternate electors” during the MNGOP’s state convention in May.