They cheered and sang, and they talked about armed revolt. They posed for pictures and wore Colonial-era costumes, and they laughed when they found out a mob breached the U.S. Capitol Building.
The roughly 500 supporters of President Donald Trump who gathered outside Minnesota's fenced-off State Capitol on Wednesday mixed violent rhetoric with jubilation at a four-hour rally that later moved to the governor's residence amid chaos in Washington.
"Now you know why Trump wanted us there!" said Alley Waterbury, a local Republican Party leader from Woodbury who emceed the rally. "My God you guys, we are going to fight, we are going to go down, there's going to be casualties. I'll be the first casualty, I do not care."
Organizers from the group Hold The Line dubbed the event "Storm The Capitol," though they cautioned on Facebook that breaching the fence would result in arrests. Instead, they saved their energy for talk of armed revolution and charges of treason for those who stood in Trump's way.
"This is 1776 … the time for talk is over," one man said. "Be on the right side of history because we are about to make it."
Minnesota state troopers guarded entrances to buildings on the Capitol complex, as Waterbury jumped in between speeches to narrate the events in Washington. Vice President Mike Pence's refusal to intervene and reject votes drew hearty boos, while talk of members of Congress taking cover prompted cheers and laughter.
By the time a handful of protesters made it to Gov. Tim Walz's Summit Avenue residence, a line of state troopers in riot helmets stood behind a fence guarding the home.
The lack of violence in St. Paul was in contrast to clashes in Washington, D.C., between pro-Trump supporters and law enforcement that unfolded as a joint session of Congress got underway. In Washington, Trump supporters breached security at the U.S. Capitol, forcing House and Senate recesses not long after the certification debate began.
In St. Paul, protesters hoisted Trump flags and homemade signs. Others walked around with recordings of past Trump speeches playing on their phones. Numerous attendees donned camouflage and carried rifles, pistols and other firearms. Up to 20 were there on behalf of a state chapter of the Three Percenters Original group. A smaller group wore garb popular with the Boogaloo Bois anti-government extremist group.
The state leader of the Three Percenters Original group, an Iron Range man who identified himself only as Matt, said the group followed Trump's call to assemble on Wednesday to protest alleged election fraud. But he rejected descriptions of his group as an anti-government militia, and said that they "don't care who is president as long as the president abides by the Constitution."
"We're here because the president who we support has called patriots to the Capitol," he said. "We're here to follow suit in our own state."
Becky Strohmeier, a Bloomington activist who helped organize Wednesday's event, argued that her movement, which includes weekly protests against Walz's emergency orders, was "not about taking up arms and fighting people actually" but "fighting your Legislature, fighting at the ballot box."
"The battle is only just beginning," she added. "We are going to fight however we need to fight, and we have a lot of people with different talents."
Public officials and judges were singled out throughout Wednesday's rally, as was the usage of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. At one point, newly elected Rep. Susan Akland, a St. Peter Republican and a registered nurse, told the crowd she was happy to see them unmasked.
State Reps. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, and Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, stoked chants against a state court judge who approved Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon's agreement to waive witness requirements and extend the deadline for counting mail ballots.
And Waterbury urged the crowd to continue to meet on Saturdays for caravans to protest at elected officials' homes.
"If you don't open our state back up, we will do whatever we need to do because we've got nothing left to lose," she said in comments aimed at Walz.
By the time a thinner crowd reached Walz's residence, state troopers lined the front lawn and heavily armed St. Paul police manned the end of the closed-off block. Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said that events in Washington prompted a heightened State Patrol presence at the Capitol.
Staff writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.