ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Republican state senator from northern Minnesota is drawing criticism after posting a video questioning why campgrounds for leisure activities are closed while homeless people can live in tents during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Justin Eichorn, a freshman lawmaker from Grand Rapids, referred to a “nice little tent city set up here” in St. Paul in a video posted — then deleted — to Twitter on Tuesday. Eichorn appealed to Gov. Tim Walz to “open up campgrounds in Northern Minnesota.”
“How is camping on the streets of St Paul any safer then your family camping up North?” the tweet accompanying the video said. “Time to safely open up campgrounds in MN.”
The Star Tribune reports Democratic Rep. Michael Howard of Richfield, the lead sponsor on housing assistance legislation, criticized the video as out of touch.
“Senator Eichorn used homeless Minnesotans as a prop, but what is most distressing is that someone with the privilege of serving our state doesn’t seem to care that many people don’t have a safe place to lay their head tonight,” Howard said.
In a statement Tuesday, Eichorn said he was trying to convince the Democratic governor to “take heed of the dismal economic conditions” Minnesotans are facing in his district and across the state.
“The video may have missed the mark, but Governor Walz’s blanket extension of the stay-at-home order only exasperates the pain that my constituency feels, Eichorn said.
State campgrounds remain closed under Walz’s stay-home order curtailing nonessential businesses and activities as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness announced Monday that they will allow day trips.