Chisholm senator blasted for tweet condemning statue toppling, urging protesters to 'pay reparations'

Sen. David Tomassoni apologized for the use of "reparations," but isn't sure he would've advocated for the lawful removal of the Columbus statue.

American Indian Movement member Mike Forcia, who is Anishanaabe, raises his hands after the statue of Christopher Columbus at the Minnesota State Capitol on Wednesday, June 10, was taken down. Evan Frost / MPR News

State Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, decried the toppling of a statue of Christopher Columbus and demanded protesters who pulled the statue at the Minnesota Capitol “pay reparations."

His tweet resulted in a social media firestorm.

“Wanton destruction of property on the Capitol grounds isn’t acceptable and is unlawful,” Tomassoni tweeted on Thursday morning in response to a video posted by KSTP reporter Tom Hauser showing the statue being pulled down Wednesday. “It should have been stopped! What’s next? Destruction of the Capitol Bldg itself? Looting inside? Some one should be held accountable, arrested, charged, and pay reparations.”


Protesters, including Dakota and Ojibwe people, pulled down the bronze statue with ropes, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press . Columbus has been widely criticized as a symbol of genocide of Native Americans, an explorer who enslaved indigenous people , who "gave" crew members women to rape and who is wrongly credited by some as “discovering” North America.

Tearing down statues commemorating racist histories, including Confederate statutes, has been occurring at an increasing rate since George Floyd died May 25 when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, now charged with second-degree murder, placed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes despite Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” pleas.

Responding to the tweet, users called out his defense of the statue and condemned his use of “pay reparations.” Reparations are the payments or other methods of making amends to the descendants of slavery and other atrocities.

Twitter user George Mitchell used Tomassoni's language describing the protesters to instead describe actions by Columbus.

"What about Columbus' wanton destruction upon the natives in the Bahamas?" Mitchell tweeted. "Will we be paying any reparations to that damage? Damage to the Native Americans once Europe arrived in the continental United States? Or is this just some cover for your white fragility?"

In a phone interview with the News Tribune on Thursday morning, Tomassoni said “‘reparations’ was a bad choice of words” and apologized for using it. He said he was merely condemning the destruction of property.


“I just think a fine should be paid or whatever the fine for the offense of the destruction of the property would be,” Tomassoni said. “That was my intent when I used the word ‘reparations.’”

Mike Forcia, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior who led the toppling of the statue, told Reuters that a Minnesota state trooper said he should expect to be arrested in the next few days and charged with criminal destruction.

Tomassoni said the removal of the statue “should have gone through the process.” Asked if he would have advocated for its removal through a legal process, Tomassoni said he isn’t sure.

“I haven't thought about that. So I’d have to think about that a little bit more,” Tomassoni said. “I don’t know if I would or not. At this time, it’s a moot point.”

Asked if he would advocate for changing Columbus Day, a federal holiday, to Indigenous People’s Day, an increasingly common change made by local and state governments, Tomassoni said he wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know that I’d go that far,” Tomassoni said.

Christopher Horoshak, a Democrat running against Tomassoni for Minnesota's 6th Senate District seat, responded Thursday in a Tweet: “Showing true colours, another example of why I’m going to the primary against you.”


"Where do we go next?" Tomassoni told the News Tribune. "I mean, there's statues all over the Capitol grounds and there's pictures of governors and all through the Capitol, and I'm sure you could pick out any one governor you want and find some bill that he signed that some group of people doesn't like and then destroy his picture.

"At some point in time, make your statements, peacefully demonstrate — that's what you should be able to do, but I don't think you should destroy property."

Sen. David Tomassoni

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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