‘We are drawing a line in the sand’
Residents speak out in protest against business restrictions
At least 200 residents from both inside and outside of the area on Sunday spoke out against Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders through a protest and march in downtown Albert Lea.
The march began at Albert Lea City Hall, traveled down Clark Street to Broadway and then ended at the Freeborn County courthouse.
“We the people have come together from near and far for one purpose: to take back our liberties and freedoms, our lawful and constitutional rights as Americans,” said Lisa Hanson, owner of The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro.
Hanson reopened her restaurant for indoor dining Dec. 16 in defiance of Walz’s ban on indoor dining that was put in place in November to limit the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants had been under similar restrictions earlier this year when the pandemic began.
In the weeks since, The Interchange has been ordered by a district court judge to halt indoor on-premises dining after Attorney General Keith Ellison filed for a temporary restraining order against the restaurant. It is also facing a five-year liquor license revocation for reopening.
Hanson said in November she was faced with a choice. She was out of funds and needed to decide whether to close permanently or open fully.
“I said to myself, if I’m going down, I’m going down fighting,” she said. Standing on constitutional rights, she said, she reopened and has remained open ever since.
“I will stand as long as our great Constitution stands as the law of this land,” she said.
She blamed the governor for putting the state in what she described as a “tailspin” and said he is to blame for the losses people have endured.
“Due to the governor’s unlawful and unconstitutional shutdown, businesses have permanently closed,” she said. “Our neighbors, family and friends are without a job. Depression and suicide is at an all time high. Addiction, domestic abuse, suicide is at an all-time high … adults and children alike are suffering. Our economy is suffering. Our republic is suffering.”
She said she is willing to risk hundreds of dollars in fines, lawsuits and losing her license because the fight is for future generations.
“Today I stand not for the red or the blue,” she said. “I stand for the red, white and blue. I stand for we the people of these United States. I stand for liberty, for freedom.”
People in the crowd cheered throughout Hanson’s speech, and several also waved large American flags.
Andrew Cooperrider of Brewed, a specialty coffee and beer company in Lexington, Kentucky, shared his experiences of how his business fought back against a ban on indoor dining in his state.
He said though he, too, had his license revoked by the health department and had a lawsuit filed against his business to close, he remained open and has since had his license back.
“You can open, you can operate,” Cooperrider said. “You can say, I can do it safely. I will let my customers choose.”
He said business owners don’t want stimulus funds or loans — they simply want to work, noting that the people in government do not understand what it takes to grow a business and the sacrifice that goes into it.
Kyle Yudes with the Constitutional Law Group, who also spoke at the event, said the people who attended the protest helped deliver a message.
“Today, no matter what you see or what you hear, we are taking a stand,” Yudes said. “We are drawing a line in the sand. We are saying no more.”
Dominique Winchester of North Mankato said she traveled to Albert Lea to attend the event because she is against the shutdown of small businesses when big-box stores such as Walmart and Home Depot can remain open.
“They make sense,” she said of the remarks she heard at the protest. “It’s exactly what most people are thinking.”
Lisa Clark of Wells congratulated Hanson and others who spoke for standing up.
“A lot of people feel this way,” she said.