BISMARCK, ND (AP) – Police allege in court filings that opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline made threats against officers and public officials in North Dakota last year, prompting additional security for the state’s governor.
The filings are part of a lawsuit filed in November by pipeline protesters who accuse police of excessive force in a Nov. 20 clash over a blockaded bridge. Opponents of the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois have long maintained they’ve been mistreated by law enforcement, and allege in the lawsuit that more than 200 protesters were injured in the bridge clash.
That number previously had been disputed by officials, who used tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses on protesters who they say assaulted officers with rocks and burning logs.
Defendants haven’t yet filed a response, but Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, County Commissioner Cody Schulz and state Bureau of Criminal Investigation Criminal Intelligence Analyst Cody Larson filed affidavits in the past week to support a request to have law officers’ names redacted from public court documents for safety.
Larson details numerous threats on social media, including one against ex-Gov. Jack Dalrymple that said “You next in the box!” and another that advocates killing law officers, pipeline supporters and the governor. Larson also includes a report of a Dec. 12 call to Dalrymple’s office from a West Fargo man who allegedly demanded the governor resign “or he won’t make it until Wednesday.”
Lt. Tom Iverson with the Highway Patrol, which handles Capitol security, said the threats against Dalrymple – who left office this month – were taken seriously and investigated. Patrol officers “kept a closer eye” on Dalrymple, according to Chief of Staff Ron Rauschenberger.
“He normally didn’t have Highway Patrol with him a lot of the time. They were more in the vicinity after the threats,” Rauschenberger said.
Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha said his office is considering charges against the 41-year-old man who allegedly made the call; the man’s position on the pipeline isn’t clear. Assistant State’s Attorney Marina Spahr declined to discuss the case in detail since it’s ongoing, and the man did not respond to a request for comment left with a woman who answered the telephone at his home.
Kirchmeier said in documents that he and his family had been threatened through social media, telephone, email and letters, and that personal information such as his home address “have been published on the internet with invitations to commit violence against me or to kill me.”
The sheriff and his wife were given personal security while the threats were investigated, and officers are still doing extra patrols and residence checks for the couple, Schulz and another commissioner, sheriff’s spokeswoman Maxine Herr said. That comes even after the large protest encampment has dwindled to a few hundred and protest actions are being encouraged across the country instead of in North Dakota.
The Standing Rock Sioux and its supporters maintain the pipeline threatens drinking water and Native American cultural sites, which Dallas-based project developer Energy Transfer Partners disputes. Opponents have long described their protest as peaceful and have attributed violent actions to rogue antagonists.
The Red Warrior Society, a protest group that advocated more aggressive tactics than the prayer and meditation called for by Standing Rock elders, did not respond to requests for comment.