By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Wednesday, state senators heard emotional eyewitness accounts about looting following the death of George Floyd. Business owners provided dramatic testimony as they relived the days parts of the Twin Cities burned.

Republican Senators opened the hearing by playing local television coverage of the rioting. Republicans say their goal is to determine what really happened and who is to blame.

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The hearing began with a skirmish between the Republican chair and Lakeville DFL Sen. Matt Little, who gave up his seat to a fellow Democrat who represents the looted area.

“I will be giving up my seat to Sen. Torres Ray, and I wanted to notify you of that because I believe representation matters,” Little said.

“Please do not force me to call you out of order, please don’t make me do that. If you wish to step out of the room and make any statement that you wish, you go right ahead,” Sen. Scott Newman said.

The partisan bickering ended as business owners testified about their businesses being destroyed.

Jim Stage broke down describing the destruction of his pharmacy in St. Paul.

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“We service 7,500 and 8,000 patients from that little store … I’m sorry, this is my family,” he said. “But I forgive the people who did it.”

Lonnie McQuirter described the added pressures he faced trying to protect his Minneapolis service station after it had been looted.

“As a black male in Minneapolis sometimes, at a business that’s been broken into, people might not understand who owns the business, and even when I tell them they still don’t believe it,” McQuirter said.

Throughout the hearing, Democratic senators objected that the oversight committee is made up largely of white senators from the Transportation and Judiciary Committees, and that senators of color and those who represent the damaged areas have not been included.

Republican senators say they will hold at least four more of these hearings and future witnesses will include Minneapolis Police Department and the State Patrol.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has some new photos they say are of people who were involved in setting fires throughout the Twin Cities. Thirteen people have already been arrested on arson-related charges, but authorities still need your help identifying some people.

Esme Murphy