Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has rejected requests from Republican lawmakers to suspend a “communist” hotline that allows residents to report violations of the governor’s stay-at-home order.
Walz told Republicans that the hotline “allows people just to try and keep their neighbors safe” and serves an “educational function if people see someone who isn’t informed about the stay-at-home order,” according to a press release from Senate lawmakers.
State Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) said he “vehemently” disagrees with Gov. Walz on the “effectiveness of this hotline.”
“Rather than serve as a resource, this hotline will only spread fear and mistrust amongst neighbors and communities. We are not a communist country, and we have constitutional rights here in the United States of America,” he said.
Howe thinks the new hotline will drive communities apart and encourage neighbors to spy on each other.
“We should trust Minnesotans to use their common sense. If a neighbor is not following the social distancing, talk to that neighbor, have a discussion,” he added. “I hope that Gov. Walz will abolish this hotline and put the resources to better causes like supporting Minnesotans who are struggling to receive and find benefits while coping with the COVID-19 epidemic.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) urged the governor to take down the hotline on Twitter Tuesday.
“It’s not necessary and it’s not how Minnesotans want to treat each other,” he said. “We can all show a bit of kindness to our neighbors as we manage our times and needs differently in the stay at home efforts.”
Please take this hotline down @GovTimWalz. It's not necessary and it's not how Minnesotans want to treat each other. We can all show a bit of kindness to our neighbors as we manage our times and needs differently in the stay at home efforts.https://t.co/ljYttFaF9m #mnelg
— Paul Gazelka (@paulgazelka) March 31, 2020
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota said it has concerns that the hotline “will reflect and potentially amplify racial disparities that already exist in 911 calls, traffic enforcement, and enforcement of low-level violations.”
“In addition, someone who sees a large group gathered outside has no way of knowing whether that group is a large extended family or people who share the same household,” the group said in a statement. “We continue to urge voluntary compliance with the stay-at-home order rather than criminal enforcement.”
The Duluth News Tribune reported Thursday that the hotline has received more than 500 calls since it was first set up last weekend.
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