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Minnesota session on policing falls apart

by JEFF BAENEN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | June 21, 2020 at 3:26 a.m.
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota legislative leaders traded barbs Saturday after a special session collapsed with no deal on revamping policing after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a session that one group called "a train wreck."

The two sides may be back at it in another special session next month.

The Republican-controlled Senate adjourned just after 6 a.m. Saturday, after GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of East Gull Lake repeatedly said that Friday was his deadline for adjournment and that lawmakers should focus on proposals both parties would support.

"I'm frustrated this morning because I thought we were actually going to do some things together," Gazelka said before adjourning. He blamed "behind-the-scenes arm-twisting" from Democratic Gov. Tim Walz for ending "any hope of working together right now."

House Speaker Melissa Hortman said majority Democrats in the Minnesota House are "ready and willing to continue working to find agreement" with Senate Republicans and Walz.

"This moment in history calls upon us to deliver transformative policy to further racial justice. There is nothing more pressing than the need to change law and policy so that it values and protects the lives of black, indigenous, and people of color in Minnesota," Hortman said in a statement.

Walz said Saturday that he was disappointed with the special session's failure and that his administration is planning its next steps. He said he had just read a text from the family of a person who was killed in a police shooting and it was "a primal scream for justice. Just do something. Just do the work."

"To take your ball and go home in the middle of this. This is an embarrassment for Minnesota, too," Walz told reporters.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a founding member of the legislative People of Color and Indigenous caucus, which had developed the Democratic package, said members of Minnesota's black, Hispanic and indigenous communities continually get the message that "our lives are not valuable, they are not worth investing in."

"Just being pushed aside, and saying that the issues that you are crying out for -- the issues of justice -- are just not important enough for us to stick around. And that is heartbreaking to me, and unacceptable, and is frankly just an insult," said Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

The House early Friday passed an extensive package of police accountability measures wrapped into one bill. It included elements of more modest policing bills that the Senate passed earlier in the week, but with some additions that Republicans did not like.

Early Saturday, Democratic leaders backed away from some of their demands that Republicans opposed, including having the state attorney general prosecute all police-involved deaths and restoring voting rights for felons. But they insisted that Republican senators needed to support other major pieces, including banning "warrior-style" training for police, allowing cities to impose residency requirements on officers and creating a state community-led public safety office, the Star Tribune reported.

The special session was necessary for Walz to extend emergency powers to manage the coronavirus, but Floyd's May 25 death after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes put the main focus on proposals to change policing in the state.

Information for this article was contributed by Steve Karnowski of The Associated Press.

People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 that enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed from bondage, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 that enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed from bondage, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
People demonstrate at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people be freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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