At least one event has been approved for the Minnesota State Capitol on Sunday: a "Sunday Church Service" led by the Bloomington conservative activist behind last week's "Storm the Capitol" rally.
The state Department of Administration approved permits this week for a Saturday "Freedom Fest" event and Sunday's "Church Service" event, according to records obtained by the Star Tribune.
The applicant for both events, Becky Strohmeier, leads the Hold the Line MN group that attracted about 500 people to the "Storm the Capitol" rally on Jan. 6 that is now under investigation by state law enforcement. Strohmeier's group also stages weekly rallies at the Capitol and has protested outside the homes of Gov. Tim Walz and other elected officials.
State and federal law enforcement are readying for a weekend slate of rallies in Minnesota and across the country before the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration. Earlier this week, an FBI alert surfaced that warned of credible threats of violence this Sunday aimed at Minnesota and Michigan's state capitols by the Boogaloo Bois extremist group.
In an e-mail to the Star Tribune, Strohmeier described the Sunday event as "invite only" and an attempt to curb violent activity. Her permit application for the "Sunday Church Service" estimated just 20 attendees and described plans for a "small group gathering to pray for our elected officials" from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A larger "Freedom Fest" led by Strohmeier has also been approved for noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday with an estimated 150 people attending. Strohmeier described that event's agenda as "Gathering, Talking, Praying, Potentially singing if things are really going well."
Earlier this week, Strohmeier's Hold the Line MN group repeatedly warned supporters not to assemble at the Capitol on Sunday. In a Monday Facebook post, the group warned of "an infiltration and set up tactic used to incite violence and blame us."
"In an effort to curb any sort of violent activity, I reserved a permit to host a few friends for a Church service in front of the Capitol on Sunday," Strohmeier told the Star Tribune in an e-mail Wednesday. "That being said, it's an invite only, lawfully permitted event and anyone trying to disturb that will be dealt with according to State Patrol policy."
Strohmeier's "Storm the Capitol" event became notable for increasingly violent rhetoric throughout the afternoon as speakers and attendees cheered the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington acknowledged that state officials are taking the FBI alert seriously but noted that it was dated Dec. 29 and said investigators are also relying on other sources of intel.
In preparation for weekend protests, Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard, and Harrington said the security presence around the State Capitol will resemble the security during the unrest that followed George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police.