DAPL Whistleblower In Hiding After Receiving Threats, ND Board files civil action against TigerSwan

North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board cites TigerSwan for illegal activity, FOIA requests pending without response from ND governor’s office

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK – Former DAPL security employee turned whistleblower, Kourtni Dockter, is in hiding. Threats from “concerned citizens” have been made against her; a black truck with no license plates is surveilling her parents’ house.

“They have threatened me, claiming that I’m a junkie drug addict and they want to come beat my ass,” Dockter said. “When we get evidence of that, that could be considered tampering with a federal witness.” 

Despite her checkered past and brushes with the law, she is not reneging her stance, and is prepared to testify in court to what she calls illegal actions of TigerSwan and other security companies involved in protecting the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

Kourtni Dockter – Facebook page

Speaking out against the tactics used on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and supporting activists — known as water protectors — was not a decision Dockter made overnight. The more than 20,000 activists and supporters of the anti-DAPL movement at the camps were called terrorists by state politicians, and ideological jihadists with a “strong religious component” by TigerSwan leadership.

“They talked about jihad all the time,” Dockter said. “Every day I heard it, from the security workers to the DAPL actual employees. They told everyone to be armed. Basically, TigerSwan was trying to portray this as, ‘You guys need to fear for your lives.’”

The terms were indoctrinated into security personnel meetings, disseminated to mainstream media disguised deliberately as news, when at least part of the violence along the pipeline in 2016 and early 2017 was amplified and created by the security companies, most importantly TigerSwan, according to leaked and requested documents first published by The Intercept

TigerSwan, a private security company with a long history in Afghanistan, also stated on February 27, 2017 that since the NoDAPL movement followed jihadist insurgency models, expect a “post-insurgency model after its collapse.” 

Exposing the agenda behind the 1,172-mile-long, $3.8 billion pipeline financed by Energy Transfer Partners and 17 financial institutions such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas of France, was an idea she and former boyfriend, Kyle Thompson, had been planning for months, she said. 

“This has nothing to do with me being an angry girlfriend,” Dockter, 22, said. “I know that my criminal record and history will be brought up, but I am willing to stand tall. I am expecting everything. I’m about to be put into the line of fire, but I know, in my heart, it is the right thing to do.”

Posing for a picture at a barricade – that was not set on fire by activists, according to activists – online srouces

The months John Porter, listed as TigerSwan’s chief security officer for Energy Transfer Partners, were by far, the most violent, Dockter said.

“There was a huge change,” Dockter said about when TigerSwan was actively present. “It went from military-style operations basically back to simple security work.”

Harsh winter weather, President Donald Trump’s executive order allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to get back on track, and the successful siege tactics used against Standing Rock camps, killed much of the activist spirit, former security worker at Oceti Sakowin, Mike Fasig, said.

“We were pretty well boxed in,” Fasig said. “Things calmed down because we never could get past anything. There were five-ton military trucks and barricades that boxed us in. There wasn’t really anything we could do.” 

“It was insane,” Dockter said. “This was their constitutional right, and they’re getting their lives threatened. They tried to justify the reasons they would have to use deadly force, and there were no instances of water protectors committing violent acts on police. 

Some of the acts reported by law enforcement were committed by security company infiltrators disguised as activists, Dockter said. The charge is one long discussed at the Standing Rock camps, but one for which there was little proof until Dockter came forward with information. “They did send their infiltrators in to disguise themselves, and they did light equipment on fire. John Porter headed all those operations.” 

Her family supports her, she said. Her father, especially, is undaunted. She described herself as a diehard liberal, who was against the pipeline to begin with, but after meeting Thompson at a local McDonalds, it was love at first sight. 

“He opened up to me the first night,” Dockter said. The two met on Facebook, and she believes Thompson originally wanted to meet her for information as she had friends involved in the Standing Rock camps. “We hit it off. We told each other everything that first night. And after, we never left each other’s side.” 

Thompson was nicknamed the “DAPL Apple” — as he is part Native American, and was “red on the outside, white on the inside,” Dockter said. A veteran, and recipient of a Purple Heart, Thompson suffers from what she believes is PTSD after two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq. Thompson slowly pulled her into working for North Dakota-based EH Investigations and Security, LLC. Initially, he wanted to become involved with security work because he wanted to protect everyone involved, Dockter said. 

“At first I was very hesitant, but the pay was good,” Dockter said. “I’m not some DAPL infiltrator here. I feel like I sold out for a guy that I loved. I put him above everything and threw away my beliefs.” 

Attempts were made to contact Thompson, but he refused to comment. 

Text from EH Investigations to Kourtni Dockter – provided by Kourtni Dockter

In January, Dockter began working for EH Investigations, which was subcontracted by Leighton Security Services as the Texas-based company was not authorized to work in North Dakota. She was paid $18 an hour, sometimes working 36-hour shifts, she said. She became aware of daily closed meetings known as “The Talk,” where TigerSwan personnel, led by Porter, directed and coordinated security measures and infiltration tactics, reinforcing the notion that the activists were terrorist-like jihadists. 

“They acted above law enforcement for sure,” Dockter said. “They directed law enforcement, and that is where they talked about classified stuff. Sometimes I would sit outside the door and there are a couple things I overheard. 

Dockter also described TigerSwan media cells using high-tech software to discover locations and intelligence in private social media pages, Dockter said. TigerSwan documents also show that security personnel relied heavily on social media postings for information.

Eventually, Dockter was fired after EH Investigations personnel discovered her past with drugs and forgery. 

“Because of my criminal record they could not have me out there,” she said. “I was already out there for about a month before they found out.” She is unfazed by those who say she is not a credible witness. “It doesn’t bother me, because what I am saying will be backed up with evidence.”

Months before Thompson’s arrest on domestic abuse and drug paraphernalia charges in April, the young couple was planning on quitting drugs and blowing the whistle on TigerSwan, she said. The activities she saw, the plans she heard while with Thompson or working in security, has been eating at her conscience. 

The initial stages of building the barricade at Backwater Bridge – photo by C.S. Hagen

TigerSwan’s claws sunk deep
The morning after law enforcement cleared the “Treaty Camp” on October 27, 2016, hundreds of activists defending Native American treaty rights, water rights, and land rights, lined up north of three smoldering vehicles. Fifty yards away, construction trucks set the first cement blocks in a line, forming the second barricade on Highway 1806. 

Weeks earlier and under emergency orders issued by former Governor Jack Dalrymple, the North Dakota National Guard manned the first barricade, more of a checkpoint for passing cars. 

Tensions brewed at the frontline that day. Police or security personnel taunted activists through a megaphone, teasing them about being cowards behind masks. At their line sat military Humvees, a tan armored vehicle equipped with a sound cannon. Activists brandished plywood shields, and refused to budge. Most activists shouted peaceful messages; one man hurled insults at the police. 

After police issued a final warning, law enforcement from five states decked out in sheriff deputy uniforms, riot gear, and armed with mace, pepper spray, rubber bullets, zip ties and clubs, some with live ammunition, formed a Roman-style phalanx and marched down the highway toward Backwater Bridge. Activists smudged each other with burning sweetgrass and sage. One woman sat amidst the crowd praying, crying so hard her shoulders shook. Two women hugged each other tightly as the marching police neared. 

The day was saved by one man with snowy-white hair, smoking a pipe, and wearing a jogging suit, Miles Allard, an elder from Standing Rock. After negotiations, both sides backed down, but the near-altercation was a sign of bigger events to come. 

Standing Rock elder Miles Davis approaching the police line – photo by C.S. Hagen

TigerSwan, straight from the war-torn fields in Afghanistan, was in town. One of the first things the mercenary-for-hire company did was gather all the security companies and put them under a “unified command structure,” according to a September 7, 2016 TigerSwan overview report. 

TigerSwan operatives called security workers from Silverton International unprofessional and unarmed. Other security companies involved included: Thompson-Gray LLC, Knightsbridge Risk Management,10 Code Security, established in Bismarck in 2010, and RGT Security, LLC, registered in Plano, Texas in 2016, Iowa’s Per Mar Security Services, SRC, Inc. in New York, and veteran-owned OnPoint Security Group LLC, from Iowa.

Not surprisingly, TigerSwan took the “fusion lead.” Now, the mercenary-for-hire company and its founder, James Patrick Reese, face a civil action lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board on June 12, 2017. 

The phalanx of law enforcement coming for activists on Backwater Bridge – photo by C.S. Hagen

“The Board has taken an administrative complaint which it has brought against EH and its principal, and that is pending,” Monte Rogneby, attorney for Vogel Law Firm and the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board, said. 

“The board is in the process of a civil action against TigerSwan, and that I believe is out for service. The board does have civil authority to initiate either administrative actions or civil actions under the Century Code.”

A security company providing illegal security services in North Dakota is a Class B misdemeanor, Rogneby said. Class B misdemeanors can carry a potential sentence of up to one year in jail and $2,000 in fines, according to the North Dakota Century Code. The board’s investigation is ongoing. 

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov. 

The North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board is a governor-appointed committee that licenses and regulates private security industries, according to its website. 

EH Investigations civil complaint
According to the civil complaint filed by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board, Jeremie Meisel is listed as the responsible license holder for EH Investigations and Security, LLC, a licensed security agency in North Dakota. In August, 2016, Meisel and EH Investigations were contacted by Leighton Security Services, Inc. to assist with security along the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

“Leighton is not licensed or registered to provide private security within the State of North Dakota,” the civil complaint stated. “Meisel and EH Investigations conspired with Leighton to assist Leighton in hiring and deploying within the State of North Dakota unlicensed or unregistered individuals to provide private investigative services in violation of North Dakota law.”

In the fall of 2016, Meisel relinquished his responsibility to Leighton in violation of North Dakota law, according to the civil complaint. The civil complaint further mentioned some of EH Investigations employees: Richard Anderson, Jason Wentz, Chris Anderson, Eizabeth Marlow, Merry Jenson, and Kimberly Stuart. None were registered in North Dakota to provide security services at the times of their hiring.  

The North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board further requested a hearing to revoke the license and registration of Meisel and EH Investigations, or take lawful disciplinary action against them. 

Calls were made and messages were left to EH Investigations personnel for comment, but no replies were made at press time. 

Screenshot of the civil action lawsuit against TigerSwan

TigerSwan civil action 
The civil action lawsuit against TigerSwan revealed the mercenary-for-hire company had a methodical and blatant disregard for North Dakota laws. 

Energy Transfer Partners hired TigerSwan in September 2016, the civil action lawsuit reported. 

TigerSwan’s mission: conduct static and mobile security operations in support of the pipeline construction throughout North Dakota. The mercenary-for-hire company provided around-the-clock protection for DAPL, enlisting an “all elements are engaged to provide security support to DAPL” methodology as its execution model, according to TigerSwan organizational paperwork.  

Protect the DAPL contractors, protect DAPL machinery, protect DAPL material, protect DAPL reputation, was TigerSwan’s rallying cry, according to TigerSwan operational reports.  

On or before September 23, 2016, the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board notified TigerSwan with a letter that it was illegally providing security services in North Dakota. 

TigerSwan’s response: “TigerSwan is not conducting ‘private security services’ in North Dakota.” 

On October 5, 2016, North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board sent TigerSwan the guidelines for licensure in the state, and on November 16, 2016, TigerSwan submitted its application on behalf of Reese, but its application was denied one month later. 

TigerSwan was denied a license because it failed to provide positive criminal history for one or more qualifying offenses, it did not disclose adjudications of guilt, and it failed to provide sufficient information to the Board “to determine whether a reported offense or adjudication has a direct bearing on Reese’s fitness to serve the public.” 

After an attempted review, TigerSwan’s license application was rejected again on January 10, 2017, because the company failed to respond to the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board’s request for the company’s activities in North Dakota prior to its application for licensure. 

TigerSwan’s mercenaries, armed with semiautomatic rifles and sidearms, continued security services before, during, and after its license application was rejected, according to the lawsuit. The company also utilized international anti-terrorist strategies and tactics against NoDAPL activists. 

“TigerSwan provides ‘safety and security’ services, utilizing claimed trademarked methodologies (F3EAR and NIFE) to identify and mitigate risks through the corporate operating environment,” the civil action lawsuit states. “These services include providing in-depth analyses of cyber, workforce, facility, electronic, and environmental security threats.”

F3EAR®Find, Fix, Finalize, Exploit, Analyze, and Recur – former DELTA FORCE leaders who execute cyber and on-site infiltrations to identify weak spots in digital networks, employee bases, operations, and structural security.

NIFE® — Department of Defense compliant, military-grade data and human intelligence that analyzes networks, individuals, facilities, electronics, and the environment to manage risks associated with information security. 

Daily, TigerSwan coordinated and provided intelligence to Energy Transfer Partners and “others related to the ongoing protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline construction project,” which would include the representatives of more than 1,300 law enforcement officers from five different states who participated in the controversy.  

Intelligence came in the forms of flyover photography, summaries of arrests, activist activity, numbers, alleged criminal actions, and equipment. TigerSwan also provided projections of activist activity including the surveillance of social media accounts, according to the lawsuit.

“TigerSwan provided private security services to Energy Transfer Partners concerning the pipeline, and coordinated with other security providers and local law enforcement in carrying out these activities,” the civil action lawsuit reported. 

TigerSwan maintained the Joint Operations Command Center to coordinate security and intelligence gathering, and organized a Quick Reaction Force to respond to activist activities. It was also the main force behind suspected cybercrime acts on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners upon the hacking group “Anonymous” and other threats against Energy Transfer Partners and the company’s executives. 

TigerSwan operatives took keen interest in Native Americans from Standing Rock, Red Warrior Tribal security, Pine Ridge Sioux, the American Indian Movement, and others from Polynesia and Palestine. 

“The presence of additional Palestinians in the camp, and the movement’s involvement with Islamic individuals is a dynamic that requires further examination,” a September 21, 2016 situational report stated. “Currently there is no information to suggest terrorist type tactics or operations; however, with the current limitation on information flow out of the camp, it cannot be ruled out.” 

Approximately 761 people were arrested by law enforcement from August 2016 until February 2017, and more than $38 million was spent by the state defending Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, which already has sprung two leaks.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “mostly complied” with environmental law when approving the pipeline, but failed to consider some matters important to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Dakota Access Pipeline began shipping oil on June 1. 

On June 7, a Freedom of Information Act request was made to the Governor’s Office of the State of North Dakota pertaining to TigerSwan activities in North Dakota, but no reply has been forthcoming. A second request was made on June 20.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Shakespeare play performers and organizers targeted

By C.S. Hagen
DETROIT LAKES – The Detroit Lakes Shakespeare in the Park volunteer group was targeted this week with hateful criticism shortly after New York City began performing its contemporary version of “Julius Caesar.”

In a week filled with partisan violence, which left five injured and the shooter killed during a Republican baseball practice at Simpson Field, Alexandria, Virginia, the online targeting left organizers of the 2017 Shakespearean comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing,” at Detroit Lakes City Park, shocked.

A post on the Detroit Lakes Shakespeare in the Park Facebook page

“The messages started Sunday morning,” Nikki Caulfield, the director of the play said. “I woke up and thought, ‘What the hell is this?’ It took a little longer to figure out that it was backlash against the Central Park production.”

“Just cancel this regressive leftist garbage already,” one commentator wrote.

“I think you guys got your nerve to put anything out like that about our president,” wrote another commentator between lines of gibberish. “You need to get your heart checked and see what’s going on with your heart that’s making it pump every day, it sure ain’t you as our heavenly father, and I’m sure he’s not happy with what you people are doing… If you can’t say something positive about this man then keep your lips closed and get your heart right and Satan is really out there raging…”

Some of the posts have since been deleted, Caulfield said.

Shakespeare in the Park Detroit Lakes has been performing for eight years in a row, making the 2017 season its ninth. The free play is set to begin June 22, and will continue until July 2.

One-star rating post on the Detroit Lakes Shakespeare in the Park Facebook page

“I’ve reached out to other theater groups in Minnesota and it sounds like no one else has experienced anything like this that I’ve heard,” Caulfield said. “The thing that surprises me is that we are clearly an amateur community group, and from the photos you can tell we are not in Central Park.”

The Detroit Lakes Shakespeare in the Park has never performed “Julius Caesar,” which is a tragedy based on true events written by playwright William Shakespeare around 1599.

New York City’s rendition of the play performed by the Public Theater depicts a blond man in a red tie being assassinated. Breitbart and Fox News were “aggrieved that the play appeared to show President Trump assassinated on stage under an American flag,” the New York Times reported.

“The Public Theater in New York City’s ‘Julius Caesar’ has garnered droves of negative attention because the contemporary rendition of William Shakespeare’s classic features a Caesar — who with his blonde hair, suit and long tie — looks like Trump,” the New York Times reported. “The play also has Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, speak in a Slavic accent very much like Melania Trump.”

Even Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., took to Twitter attempting to connect the shooting in Alexandria to the controversy surrounding the Public Theater’s rendition.

Protest pamphlets found outside Trump Tower – online sources

Caulfield said she doesn’t understand why Detroit Lakes was targeted, other than its original name was simply Shakespeare in the Park. “I don’t know if it’s because I carelessly didn’t put Detroit Lakes into Shakespeare in the Park, or what. We are clearly a community theater, and we’re obviously not a professional group.”

The group’s Facebook name has been changed to Detroit Lakes Shakespeare in the Park.

The Shakespeare in the Park (New York) Facebook page is filled with hate speech, including calling Democrats communists and hypocrites.

“You have blood on your hands,” one commentator wrote.

Pamphlets apparently found outside Trump Tower called for a protest at Central Park Theater in New York City today at 5 p.m.

Stephanie Murry, the artistic director of North Dakota Shakespeare in Grand Forks, has not heard of any similar incidents in North Dakota. She said she respects differing opinions, but does not want to make a strong political statement. “We want our shows to be as inclusive as possible.”

Shakespeare in the Park New York Facebook page post

Bill Lucas, a former Fargo educator, comedy company owner, and local director and actor, said directors have the right to select the shows they want to perform, but potential customers also have the right to protest.

“Julius Caesar is a political statement if you want to believe it was a political statement,” Lucas said. “Just like nursery rhymes we teach children, which were directed at the kings of England.”

The only time plays should be stopped, he said, is if taxpayer money is involved in places such as schools: the criticism against Detroit Lakes Shakespeare in the Park is misdirected.

“It’s a shame they’re being threatened, and that people aren’t doing more research.

There’s almost no show you can’t find something controversial in, even though it’s Shakespeare. If she was doing the same exact show as in New York City then they have the right to protest, but first find out what is going on before you start protesting.”

Since Sunday, the group’s Facebook page received a flash flood of one-star ratings and rants. Other criticisms were written into existing posts. One of the people who left a one-star rating was from Florida, another from Chicago.

“My take is that given the history of productions of this show, showing various political leaders as the Julius Caesar role, is nothing new,” Caulfield said. “To treat it as something new, is a lack of understanding of how some of this stuff works.”

YOU SHOULD KNOW

Much Ado About Nothing

June 22-July 2

Detroit Lakes Shakespeare in the Park

Detroit Lakes City Park, Park Blvd, Detroit Lakes, 218-844-4221

6 performances, weather permitting: June 22, 23,24, 30, July 1, 7pm; July 2, 2pm

Tickets: Free and open to the public

 

Former DAPL Security Speaks Out, Damning TigerSwan Tactics 

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL
– Speaking from a nondescript hotel room, a former DAPL security employee revealed secret agendas, illegal activities, and widespread drug use among private security employees hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect the company’s interests along to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. 

Kyle Thompson and Kourtni Dockter – Facebook page

Describing an agenda that included setting company vehicles on fire, stealing equipment, and intentionally riling up protesters, Kourtni Dockter, 22, of Bismarck, exposed that the security firms involved actively attempted to pin illegal activities on activists. 

Dockter contacted Michael Fasig, who worked Oceti Sakowin security during the controversy, and Aubree Peckham, both affiliated with ActivateNow, an independent news network, for the interview. Days before she spoke, she made an announcement. 

“Free bird,” she wrote on her Facebook page on June 5. “Prepare for a major info drop my fellow ex-DAPL workers… I’m about to expose everything that illegally happened during my job working security.”

Appearing slightly nervous, Dockter first said that she was speaking of her own free will, and had not been coerced in any way. “I’m doing this because I want to expose the truth,” she said. 

Dockter is also the former girlfriend of Kyle Thompson, the Thompson-Gray LLC security employee who was disarmed by activists of a AR-15 on October 27, 2016 while reportedly driving his pickup truck at high speeds toward the Oceti Sakowin camps. 

Starting early November 2016, Dockter said she worked with Leighton Security Services, and “never left his [Thompson] side after that.” She would frequently meet at the Mandan Yard where the security firms, TigerSwan Inc., Leighton Security Services, LLC, established in 2011 in Honey Grove, Texas, and 10 Code Security, established in 2010 in Bismarck, frequently met with pipeline executives and law enforcement. 

Leighton Security Services owner Kevin Mayberry, said he has never heard of Dockter, but that if she had worked for his company it would have been indirectly with EH Investigations LLC.

“We subcontracted to them,” Mayberry said. “I got some word about some lady who was saying something about TigerSwan, but we didn’t have anything to do with anything like that what was going on. Our only part up there was watching welding equipment and working in the main yards.” 

“Our company was never mentioned in any type of scandalous way up there,” Mayberry said. “We pretty much kept to the sidelines, and I wouldn’t let my company get involved in the things that were going on up there.”

When asked if he knew about any illegal activity committed by pipeline security personnel, he said that he would need to talk to his company’s legal counsel before divulging any more information. “I got my opinion, but it would all be speculation,” Mayberry said. “My company, me, I would not let our guys get involved because I didn’t think it was right.” 

EH Investigations LLC is listed as a limited liability company involved with private investigations and security, and established on November 5, 2015 in Bismarck, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State. Other media have listed HE Security, Russell Group Security, and SRG Security, along with other security agencies, worked the Dakota Access Pipeline route, and were responsible for equipment safety, drilling operations, and filming operations. 

Dockter said illegal activity was encouraged by security companies, who used agents to infiltrate the camps, and commit crimes that were later pinned on activists. 

“They [security companies] had incentives for people to hurt other people,” Dockter said.” They wanted the protesters to be riled up, they wanted their guns shown, they even sent in people from the other side that would have guns to make it seem that the protesters had guns and they could jump in and act on it.” 

TigerSwan at times authorized deadly force, and looked favorably at employees who incited violence that led to arrests, Dockter said. 

“They did have deadly force authorized, but there were times like the incident with the horse when TigerSwan authorized deadly force and they’re not even supposed to be doing that. They acted above the law.”

She went on to describe a day when Thompson allegedly swerved into the opposite lane into oncoming traffic and intentionally sideswiped youth on horseback. 

The live feed frequently suffered interruption, garbling some of Dockter’s responses. “We’ve been DAPLed,” was a response many watchers joked about, referring to the cyber warfare activists reported they experienced while at the camps outside of Standing Rock. 

Thompson did not have a driver’s license, or a security license, Dockter said. On the day he was arrested by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he was snorting methamphetamine on a hill overlooking the camps, she said. 

Brennon Nastacio and Kyle Thompson on October 27, 2016 – online sources

“Once he was up for a week,” Dockter said. He was very high and strung out. When he’s high his voice changes. Kyle was trying to keep it all together, he was the only one who could do it, because he was high on meth. It’s ridiculous that Kyle pulled a gun, but doesn’t get in trouble. It’s crazy some of the things he pulled he gets away with, but the protesters would get arrested, maced right on the spot.”

Thompson has been repeatedly contacted for comment, but offered no reply to the accusations made by his former girlfriend.

Security employees were also overworked, and security firms frequently overcharged their employer, Energy Transfer Partners, Dockter said. 

“We had these positions filled, inserted these fake names on timesheets… to turn in to DAPL,” Dockter said. Out of 12 positions allocated for, only seven people worked security for Leighton Security Services, Dockter said. 

Dockter painted a picture resembling a Wild West show, with security personnel’s disregard for law and order, and a desire to become their employer’s hero of the week. 

“He said he ran into people, he ran into horses, he didn’t care,” Dockter said. “He wanted to. He liked it. He said ‘We didn’t know what they were capable of. We feared for our life.’” 

After the Treaty Camp was cleared on October 27, TigerSwan mercenaries set fire to the five-ton trucks on the bridge, she said.

“TigerSwan sent people out at night to light equipment on fire,” Dockter said. “John Porter was sent to set equipment on fire overnight. He did it solo, he had backup, had some drone coverage, but they set their own equipment on fire.” 

Private security personnel along pipeline route – online sources

Porter was the chief security officer for Energy Transfer Partners, according to documents leaked to media outlet The Intercept. Porter’s LinkedIn profile lists that he was the principal logistics advisor to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Ministry of Defense from 2016, where he was responsible for advising, mentoring, and training for intelligence systems. Energy Transfer Partners is the parent company of Dakota Access LLC, who was responsible for construction of the 1,172-mile-long, $3.78 billion pipeline. 

Thompson also allegedly stole a radio from an elder at the camps, Dockter said, and went inside the camps on multiple occasions. Security personnel used the radio to spy on camp organizer’s radio frequencies. 

On November 21, the night of the standoff on Backwater Bridge, where law enforcement used water cannons, concussion grenades, rubber bullets and other non-lethal means against hundreds of activists in sub-freezing temperatures, security personnel infiltrated the “other side” to provoke, she said. 

“They were saying that protesters were throwing propane tanks,” Dockter said. “What actually happened was that TigerSwan sent people to the other side to start it. That’s why, they provoked it. Lots of money…

“That was definitely a provoked incident. Definitely.”

She referred to the same night that Sophia Wilansky, from New York, nearly had her arm blown off by what activists say was a concussion grenade, and what law enforcement claim was a homemade Coleman propane tank bomb.  

In an unrelated incident, Thompson, 30, was arrested April 18 for simple assault domestic violence, carrying a concealed weapon, and for possession of schedule I, II, and III drug paraphernalia, according to the Burleigh County arrest records. By the following afternoon, the domestic abuse charge was dropped, leaving two Class A misdemeanor charges: carrying a concealed firearm in his vehicle, and possessing drug paraphernalia, namely syringes and spoons, to consume methamphetamine, according to the Burleigh County Clerk of Court.

Dockter’s interview comes partway through a series of stories first revealed by leaked documents given to The Intercept, describing the private security company, TigerSwan Inc., and its relationship to local law enforcement, Energy Transfer Partners, and government agencies. 

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov.

The North Dakota Secretary of State holds one record for TigerSwan, LLC, established in Fargo on November 7, 2016, seven months after the controversy began. The company led a massive misinformation campaign to infiltrate local and national media calling activists “jihadists” with a religious agenda, and worked closely with law enforcement from five different states, using military-style counterterrorism measures against the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Make America Great Again” and private security personnel – online sources

“If you or someone got the protesters riled up and got them arrested, they looked at you way better for that,” Dockter said. “There was definitely incentive for that. They wanted that to happen. They wanted the protesters provoked so they could act on that.” 

Ten Code Security  was contacted for comment, but did not reply or refused to comment. TigerSwan Inc. was also contacted for information, but did not comment. Additionally at press time, it was unsure if Dockter is prepared to testify in any potential court proceedings.

This is a breaking story, updates to continue when available.

Leaked Documents 2: TigerSwan and Government Twist Narrative Over Dakota Access Pipeline

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL – As at Wounded Knee in 1973, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used informants to infiltrate the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline camps, according to government emails leaked to media outlet The Intercept

The claim was widely believed true by activists in the Standing Rock camps against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but was never proven until now. Law enforcement from five different states, the North Dakota National Guard, the National Sheriff’s Association, and TigerSwan security personnel hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of the Dakota Access LLC, also depended upon extracting information from social media feeds.

Police gather for a photo opportunity before a roadblock setup by activists, reports differ on who set the debris on fire – photo provided by online sources

Leaked emails stemming from the November 21 standoff on Backwater Bridge after militarized law enforcement used water cannons to force back hundreds of activists in freezing temperatures, reveal government agencies’ attempts to control the narrative. Hundreds of activists were reportedly injured, one seriously – Sophia Wilansky – was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after an explosion nearly ripped off her arm.

“Everyone watch a different live feed,” Bismarck Police Officer Lynn Wanner wrote in an email, which was seen by FBI agents, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“FBI inside source reporting propane tanks inside the camp rigged to explode,” Wanner, who according to records acted as an on-the-ground liaison between agencies, wrote in an email.

TigerSwan was quick to respond, worrying that activists would use the growing numbers of people injured as an “anti-DAPL propaganda,” according to records. 

Relying on information from the FBI’s infiltrator and social media posts on Facebook, U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Intelligence Specialist Terry Van Horn sent out an email a day after the November 21 confrontation saying Wilansky was seen throwing a homemade Coleman-type gas canister bomb on Backwater Bridge.

“How can we get this story out? Rob Port?” Major Amber Balken, a public information officer with the North Dakota National Guard, said. “This is a must report.” 

Cecily Fong, a public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, replied saying she would “get with” the blogger for wider dissemination. 

Medics working to warm a man suffering from hypothermia – photo by C.S. Hagen

Wilansky was injured by an explosion from the activists’ side, Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported at the time, even after many eyewitnesses came forward saying that Wilansky was first struck with rubber bullets, and then targeted by a compression grenade while she was on the ground. Another eyewitness said she was hit first by a rubber bullet, and then by the grenade as she crossed the guardrail south of Backwater Bridge, approximately 30 feet from the frontline.

Lawyers working with Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, denied the accusations citing government disinformation. Formal notices of claim were filed against the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and other law enforcement agencies in May for state tort claims, and for libel, slander, and defamation of character. 

“This is outrageous that this happens in our country, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse,” Wayne Wilanksy said in a video interview.

In addition to the FBI’s informant, at least one other person was sighted in the back of a pickup truck holding a fake gun wrapped in duct tape, and another attempted to infiltrate the camps. 

Kyle Thompson, of Bismarck, was disarmed by activists then turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on October 27, 2016. Thompson was later handed over to Morton County, and then released, called a victim. No charges were filed at that time, but Thompson was later arrested in an unrelated case on drug and weapons charges in April 2017 by Bismarck Police. 

Thompson worked for Thompson-Gray LLC, listed under Silverton Consulting International by the Ohio Secretary of State, according to paperwork discovered inside his truck. The company was not authorized to work in North Dakota, and was owned by Charles Graham Clifton, a man who has at least three civil lawsuits filed against him. 

 

Forty-three years after Wounded Knee
In 1973, confrontations between Native Americans and government agencies at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, lasted 71 days, leaving two people killed during shootouts, 12 people wounded, including one FBI agent, and to the arrests of approximately 1,200 people. Forty-three years later, the anti-DAPL movement camped outside Standing Rock for nearly ten months with no casualties, but hundreds suffered from hypothermia under siege-like tactics, and were also hit with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, attack dogs, and percussion grenades. Approximately 761 people were arrested by law enforcement, whose efforts and intelligence were coordinated by TigerSwan Inc., the  private security company hired by Energy Transfer Partners. 

Starting soon after Ohio-based Frost Kennels admitted its involvement in altercations when the security company’s attack dogs bit activists in September 2016, TigerSwan stepped in, and worked closely with law enforcement using military-style counterterrorism measures against the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to documents leaked to The Intercept.  

TigerSwan attempted to target Native Americans, especially those involved in the Red Warrior Society and the American Indian Movement, actress Shailene Woodley, even activists from Black Lives Matter, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch, according to records, and labelled activists outside of Standing Rock as “jihadists” involved in a religious uprising. 

Daily intelligence report from TigerSwan circulated to law enforcement included this picture of a gorilla overseeing the Standing Rock camps

Aaron Pollitt, 28, from Indiana, was charged on October 22, 2016 by Morton County Sheriff’s deputies for engaging in a riot and criminal trespass, and was also targeted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force after leaving Standing Rock. 

“It was really eerie,” Pollitt said. “It is really concerning to be investigated by a terrorism task force or state police, but I am not too concerned.This is an assault on the rights of people to be scaring us away from our right to protest and to free speech.”

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov. The North Dakota Secretary of State holds one record for TigerSwan, LLC, established in Fargo on November 7, 2016, seven months after the controversy began. 

Communication between the various agencies attempts to paint the activists – known as water protectors – as criminals, out of state troublemakers, and sexual deviants, a theme widely reported by the state’s media, particularly on the Forum Communication Company’s right-wing editorialist Say Anything Blog, managed by Port. 

“We probably should be ready for a massive media backlash tomorrow although we are in the right. 244 angry voicemails received so far,” Ben Leingang said on November 21. Leingang is listed as the director of the North Dakota Fusion Center, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, State of North Dakota, by Leadership Directories

The North Dakota Fusion Center was established by current Senator John Hoeven R-N.D., when he was governor in 2007, and began to serve as a industrial surveillance complex for communications between North Dakota law enforcement and National Guard with the federal government for information collections, analysis, and dissemination, according to the North Dakota Governor’s Office. 

 

Creating the government narrative 
In an October 3, 2016 TigerSwan document, security agents attempted to exploit internal divisions between Native Americans and “white allies,” saying that drug use and sexual activity persist among the activists, which at the time was closing in on 10,000 people. What was uncertain to TigerSwan operatives was the “number and type of weapons within the camps or who has been providing military-style training sessions.” 

Nearly every mainstream North Dakota media outlet used more ink to publish stories pertaining to local anger and trash pileups than actual events occurring along the Dakota Access Pipeline. Additionally, law enforcement tried to exacerbate the story that a journalist was attacked inside the camps on October 18. Phelim McAleer, from Ireland, was given permission to enter the camps and soon began asking pointed question about activists being hypocritical, he said. 

McAleer is known as a pro-oil public relations agitator, and ‘professional character assassin’ by many. 

TigerSwan disseminated a Powerpoint report citing positive and negative aspects of the controversy. 

“Positive – Sheriff’s Association continues to publish positive news stories. Local news media is highlighting negative effects the protesters are having to the area.”

“Negative – Protesters continue posting anti-law enforcement anti-DAPL content on social media in order to garner sympathy and support for their cause.”  

TigerSwan also became the law enforcements’ ‘weatherman,’ posting the week’s predicted weather patterns. 

On the south side of the camps, activists held daily classes teaching newcomers about passive resistance tactics, incessantly stressing the importance of non-violent methods. Rules were posted on a large board outside the tent’s entrance. 

Direct Action classroom tent – photo by C.S. Hagen

In the Sacred Stone Camp, medical massages were available for those suffering from muscle or bone injuries. Multiple kitchens were usually busy, either feeding those inside the camps or running food and coffee out to lookout sites. 

Many people wore knives at their belt, a common tool for anyone living in the wilderness. Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported no weapons were found within the camps at any time. Morton County Public Information Officer Maxine Herr added that the department received reports of weapons – other than survival tools – spotted in vehicles and elsewhere. 

Early during the controversy, either due to faulty information from the FBI’s informant, or due to a cultural misunderstanding, Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported knowledge of pipe bombs, which turned out to be ceremonial pipes. When asked about the claim during an interview, Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney told reporters that tribal leaders said pipe bombs were being made inside the camps.

In 2016, Morton County law enforcement agencies received 8,033 reports, of which 5,257 were verified offenses, Herr stated. 

“September to December, when protesters were her in mass, showed a significant uptick,” Herr said. 

Typically, monthly calls for assistance and crime reports average nearly 400 per month in Morton County, according to police records. In 2016, reports began increasing across the county in June, climaxing at 1,159 reports in September, and slowly decreasing until December with 895 reports called in. Numbers reflect all calls made to Morton County pertaining to any situation, not specifically related to the DAPL controversy.  

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault and other leaders insisted on peaceful protest and prayer.  Signs were posted at the camps’ entrances not allowing weapons or drugs. Although the camps temporarily became North Dakota’s tenth largest community, few real crimes were reported from within the activists’ camps.

TigerSwan also arranged meetings with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to documents. In October 2016, the security company also stated activists will continue to “riot” and force law enforcement to respond with violence. The concern revolved around the pipeline project, however, and not the potential life of a human being. 

“The use of force or death of a protester or rioter will result in the immediate halt to DAPL operations, which will likely permanently halt the entire project,” the October report stated. 

Daily intelligence information from TigerSwan to law enforcement

TigerSwan operatives were also concerned about peaceful activists. “It is important to weed out the non-aggressive groups as they will drain our resources in the wrong direction with no effect to our client.” 

TigerSwan was also seeking information at the time when former Governor Jack Dalrymple attempted to enforce fines on what people in his administration termed as “terrorists,” – anyone traveling the roads to the camps and on local sympathizers providing support, logistics, and “potentially shelter for those committing criminal acts.” 

 

Fall From Grace

Local pastor claims racism and church infighting behind her sudden dismissal
UPDATE: Protesters picket church Wednesday evening, story at bottom

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – For years, Pastor Grace Murray opened the doors of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ to New Americans and the LGBT community, and then she was fired.

Despite a massive banner hanging outside the 90-year-old structure at 901 Broadway, declaring “We leave judging to God,” Murray and church members said the church council fired her suddenly, May 31, because of racism exhibited by the “old guard” at the church, effectively turning their backs on the church’s tenets of being accepting of everyone – no matter race, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or mental or physical ability.

The official reason differs.

“You have recently received notification of the upcoming meeting to be held on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 to terminate our Pastoral Call Agreement with Pastor Grace Murray,” the church letter informing its members stated. “To insure the financial future of Plymouth United Church of Christ we believe a change must be made.”

Pastor Grace Murray, formerly of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, after she was fired – photo by C.S. Hagen

“The stated reason was that the church finances could not support a full-time pastor, however, there was never a request to negotiate a possible part-time call,” Murray said. “We actually were about three-quarters of the way through a process of mediation, and instead of paying face to that process, there were some folks that called for a special meeting. I know some of the things that have been said were my sermons are too political.”

According to the church’s Constitution and bylaws, a majority vote must pass in order to fire the pastor. The church’s council voted 42 for dismissal, and 22 for keeping Murray as pastor, however; two of the people who voted were not church members, according to emails.

Church council members were contacted for comment, but few replied. Church council members approached Murray days after she was fired saying that the church will adhere to her hiring contract, which stipulates 90 days written notice before termination of employment.

“The special meeting was called to ‘terminate the Pastoral Call Agreement,’ to say ‘You are being laid off. You no longer have a position with us,’” Rosella Jangula, the financial secretary, wrote in an email. “An employer doesn’t have to give employees a 90-day notice before laying them off.”

At the pulpit delivering the sermon on Sunday stood former Nazarene Pastor Mervin Leroy Kelley, of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, who was convicted by jury of criminal sexual conduct in 2000. Kelley was convicted on two third-degree criminal sex conduct charges and sentenced to 48 months imprisonment in the Ottertail County Jail, according to the Minnesota Judicial Branch.   

When Callie DeTar arrived at church Sunday, she also noticed the Pennies For Heaven jar was empty. Pennies For Heaven is a donation jar used to buy gifts such as food or clothing for the area’s needy.

“I came in yesterday and the entire bag of money was missing,” DeTar said. “The consensus is that it was taken and deposited into the church’s funds, and it’s not the church’s money, it’s the community’s money. I don’t know if I want to call the police or what.”

Nearly every church council member has left, she said. She too is preparing to leave the church, and stated that the ‘old guard’ in the church refuse to talk further about the issues.

“Nobody wants to say anything. Everyone is tucking in their tails and running.”

Members state years of infighting stem in part due to racial ignorance and racial fear after Murray rented out space to Pastor Gabriel Barbly and the Bethel World Outreach Church – Fargo. The meeting in which decided Murray’s fate became hostile, a yelling match, church members said. Moderator Tom Thoreson threatened to call police at one point during the meeting, according to church members.

Bethel World Outreach Church – Fargo – Facebook page

“They hate gay people, they hate black people, and it’s supposed to be an all-encompassing church,” DeTar, the church’s administrative assistant, said.

“I certainly think it could have been done differently, there’s an awful lot of hurt feelings,” Helen Goodfellow, involved with pastor relations, said. “It’s a very very nasty situation.”

The church has been in turmoil since before Murray rented the church basement to Barbly, former administrative assistant Timothy Shannon said. Services are attended primarily by African Americans.

“There was friction about particularly Pastor Gabriel’s church,” Murray said. “Things stated were the noise level, the disrespect, ‘we can’t get in the bathroom.’ That has not been a happy thing for people. Even things like, finding some small things wrong with their presence.

“And I did use the word, racism.”

Other church members said at least one person in the congregation felt violated after toys were used by those in Barbly’s growing church. Another member stated that the feelings stem from a type of jealousy, as Barbly’s church is growing faster than the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ’s congregation.

“They look at them like they’re third class steerage,” DeTar said. “The way they talk about them is so disrespectful, they won’t give them a name, even. They’re just really awful, sitting around talking about how the bathrooms are dirty, that they’re too loud, that they’re sneaky. Sure they’re loud, but they’re worshipping.”

“I think it’s 85 to 90 percent racism,” Jo Ann Ripplinger, a former church secretary and member of the church, said. “They use the budget as a stepping stone that she isn’t taking the church into the direction they want it to go. It’s depressing. They say there’s no racism here, and yet there is an undercurrent here of extreme racism and fear. They don’t understand them, or want to have anything to do with them.”

“They’ve also wanted to put the altar Bible back on the altar, and that’s anti-Semitic,” DeTar said. The altar Bible is the Holman Christian Standard Bible published in the 1930s, which advocated for the deportation of German Jews back to Germany.

At a time when small-town churches are dying due to a lack of funds, Murray’s move to rent out the space was a fiscally-sound move, Shannon said. A typical Sunday service attracts approximately 50 people, he said.

Sunday morning during service time, the church’s parking lot was less than half full.

“The argument that this is actually costing money, there’s no way this makes sense,” Shannon said.

The addition of Barbly’s church, however, disrupted the congregation’s social activity of having coffee downstairs after church services, he said. In the church’s front yard, prominently displayed, a sign advertises normal services at 10:30am., Barbly’s service at 11am, and Native American services at 4pm on Sundays.

“Their routine was disrupted by the African services, which by Midwestern Lutheran standards is loud and raucous,” Shannon said. “They took exception to that, to the noise. What it is, and you’re talking about only four or five people, but they are so loud, and they’re creating so much drama, so not only do you have the people who are openly anti-gay, and who are racist, but you also have the ones who say ‘I don’t want to have all this drama.’”

Murray, who is known by friends at times as “She who shall not be crossed,” is known as a LGBT advocate, someone who does not tolerate excuses, Shannon said.

“I saw her reduced to tears, and she is a tough lady. She also cares, and she’s human, not just because of the treatment she’s receiving, but because she understands if the LGBT community loses her, they lose a lot. She made it well known that there was a place for you.”

Bethel World Outreach Church – Fargo is part of the Bethel World Outreach Ministries International, an evangelical and revival-focused organization.

Although theological differences exist between Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, a progressive, non-denominational organization, and the Bethel World Outreach Church – Fargo, Murray and Barbly said they were a good fit.

“The United Church of Christ as a denomination is openly welcoming of people regardless of any type of life,”Murray said. “I talked to Pastor Gabriel about that, and for them, at that time, two years ago, people cannot become members who are in the LGBT community, but can worship, which was big step forward.

Barbly said there were never problems over differing doctrines between the churches.

“We had an understanding,” Murray said. “And that’s a deep cultural thing for them as they’ve come from a place where LGBT people can be murdered.”

“Lily white and albinos,” Shannon said. “Now, all the sudden you bring in all these black people, and they dress by Lutheran standards, a little garishly. Growing up in Africa where they were from, they prayed at night to not be kidnapped and murdered. They’re in a situation now where they can watch their kids wish for ponies.”

Pastor Gabriel Barbly and family – Facebook page

Barbly, originally from the Bong Mine Community in Bong County, Liberia, is listed as a pastor since 2013, according to Liberty University Alumni records. He pays $600 a month for use of the Fellowship Hall in the basement, but is unsure of the future.

“Now that she is gone, we don’t know what is going to happen,” Barbly said.

Although Barbly admits not knowing the inner workings of Murray’s church, some members of his congregation have had bad experiences. “Some people have yelled, saying we should leave the church,” Barbly said.

Ripplinger joined the church because of Murray, she said, and was one of two new members in 2016. “She was very open,” Ripplinger said. “She didn’t have any prejudices.”

Murray is a champion in Fargo for LGBT, Native American, and New American rights, Ripplinger said, and the problems began before she was hired. “There was this undercurrent of people not accepting what she was trying to do. She referred to it as the ‘Old Guard,’ and it is.”

Once during a meeting, church council members were discussing how to increase membership and appeal more to the younger generation. “Not one question was directed toward the younger people at the meeting,” Ripplinger said. “Nobody came up with an idea.”

“The other thing was we had Christmas Eve services, and all three congregations were supposed to be all together, but not one person from our congregation showed up, other than the people who were required to be there.

“That’s despicable.”

Murray, who wished for one last Sunday in the church she led for five years, hinted at the confusion in her last service on May 28.

“When I began this sermon, I admitted that I am worried about our church,” Murray said during the sermon. “I know that many of you are as well. I am worried imagining the time when I no longer serve this church as pastor, whenever that may be. Some of you are worried about the day when this church will finally close its doors, whenever that may be. Others are worried because we have lost sight of the first things.”

Part of the congregation is grieving, and will be leaving with her, she said. She planned to hold her first Sunday service in South Fargo, which coincidentally landed on Day of the Pentecost, the original “birthday of the church,” she said.

“Maybe we are being pushed out to birth a church,” she said.

Murray wants to remain in the Fargo/Moorhead area, but the life of a startup pastor is difficult.

“I am a pastor at heart, so I’m seeking a call,” she said. She was ordained in 2007, and is a graduate of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She grew up in the South with segregated bathrooms, “colored wards” in hospitals, but has been known as a voice for inclusion in Fargo/Moorhead since her arrival.

“I’ve had people standing behind me before,” Murray said. “Now they’re standing beside me, and speaking out.”

The Plymouth Congregational Church arrived in Fargo with the Northern Pacific Railroad, setting up its first structure at the corner of Ninth Street and Ninth Avenue in 1882, according to church records. It was moved during the winter of 1884 where Plymouth Apartments now stand, and continued until 1890 when a windstorm destroyed the building. The current building was finished in 1927.

 

Update: Protesters Picket Local UCC Church After Pastor Fired 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– A years-long struggle for dominance inside the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ hasn’t ended with the pastor’s dismissal. On one side is Grace Murray, a progressive pastor, and her supporters; on the other side is the “old guard,” those who led the crusade to fire her. 

Murray and her supporters claim racism was involved in her May 31 dismissal. Responsible church council members refuse to comment, citing only in emails and official letters that the church could no longer afford a full-time pastor. 

One week after Murray was fired from the 135-year-old church, protesters from Fargo and Moorhead picketed the building demanding an end to racism and homophobia. They also wanted Murray to be treated fairly by the church council.

Protesters gather outside of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ – photo by C.S. Hagen

The decision to fire Murray came after a special meeting was called on May 31, and after a vote – 42 for dismissal, and 22 for keeping her as pastor – Murray was dismissed. The church’s Constitution states that a majority vote by the church council and members is needed in order for a dismissal to pass. Church members claim that two votes during the process were invalid. 

According to Murray’s contract, she is entitled to 90 days forewarning, however; she did not preach last Sunday. Former Nazarene Pastor Mervin Leroy Kelley, of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, who was convicted by jury of criminal sexual conduct in 2000, took her place. Kelley was convicted on two third-degree criminal sex conduct charges and sentenced to 48 months imprisonment in the Ottertail County Jail, according to the Minnesota Judicial Branch.

“You are being laid off. You no longer have a position with us,’” Rosella Jangula, the financial secretary, wrote to Murray in an email. “An employer doesn’t have to give employees a 90-day notice before laying them off.”

On Wednesday, Murray’s daughter, Elizabeth Dill, held a placard that read: “She was not fired over money. She was fired for doing her job.”

“She has stood by what the UCC stands for,” Dill said. “And they have not. They’re piggybacking on everything that she’s worked so hard for.” 

Protester holds up a sign – photo by C.S. Hagen

She described the years-long ordeal within the church, the controversy between what Murray described as the “old guard” and Murray’s progressive outreach, took a mental and physical toll on her mother. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever see her so upset,” Dill said. 

“I saw her reduced to tears, and she is a tough lady,” former administrative assistant Timothy Shannon said. “She also cares, and she’s human, not just because of the treatment she’s receiving, but because she understands if the LGBT community loses her, they lose a lot. She made it well known that there was a place for you.”

Once the anticipation of her future role at the church at 901 Broadway ended on May 31, a weight was lifted off her shoulders, Dill said. “Now, she’s hit the ground running.” 

Murray, church members, and Dill, who is not affiliated with the church, said racism was behind the decision. The tensions between Murray and some church council members intensified after she rented the Fellowship Hall to Pastor Gabriel Barbly and the Bethel World Outreach Church – Fargo, which is a predominantly African American congregation.

In the church’s front yard, prominently displayed, a sign advertises normal services at 10:30am., Barbly’s service at 11am, and Native American services at 4pm on Sundays. A massive banner hangs outside the 90-year-old structure declaring “We leave judging to God.”

Moorhead resident, Katrina Jo Koesterman, is a “pastor’s kid,” and a member of the First Congregational Church of Christ in Moorhead. “I’ve struggled with my spirituality my entire life,” Koesterman said. “At UCC I can be me, and seeing a church bearing the UCC name and not living up to the UCC standard is discouraging.” 

Originally from Fargo, Koesterman moved to Minnesota as North Dakota’s health care is not trans-friendly, she said. She held a Pride flag poster saying “Never Giving Up,” and waived it at passing cars. Some honked, offered a thumb’s up. One black pickup truck revved its engine, shooting black exhaust smoke across the lawn, and then drove around the block for a repeat.

Koesterman decided to attend services in Moorhead after listening to a group of children one Sunday morning talking about the proper use of pronouns for trans people. 

A man who gave his name as Maike, originally from Virginia, moved to Fargo in 2009 for financial reasons. “Racism is everywhere,” Maike said. “It doesn’t matter where you are, but up here it is coated in sugar.” 

Dawn Lexvold, a member of the First Congregational Church of Christ in Moorhead, said she once considered the Plymouth church as her sister church. Church administration handled Murray’s situation poorly, like a “Seventh grade click-y bully,” she said. 

“My prayer for the whole thing is maybe there is a Y in the road, and another door will open,” Lexvold said. 

Most of the church council members have left, church administrative assistant Callie DeTar said. Murray’s supporters are being told not to bring up the issues any longer, she said. 

Reactions to Barbly’s church being “loud” took the forms of occasional insults and eventually into heated debates after Murray rented the basement to Barbly for $600 a month, DeTar and other church members stated. Church leaders threatened to call police during the special meeting called to fire Murray, church members stated, and Barbly admitted that some in his congregation have been yelled at. 

Additionally, church leaders are considering changing the altar Bible to the old Holman Christian Standard Bible published in the 1930s, which advocated for the deportation of German Jews back to Germany.

Donated funds for the Pennies For Heaven went missing on Sunday, DeTar said. Pennies For Heaven is a donation jar used to buy gifts such as food or clothing for the area’s needy.

Dill said her mother attempted to buyout the church’s stand for Pride in the Park, coming this August. The church refused, she said. 

“And she was told that they don’t know why she thinks that they don’t share the same values as her on LGBT people,” Dill said. “I’m pretty sure that feeling must have come from the fact that they have never once been with her to Pride in the Park, nor did they help me paint all the Pride flags on rocks. Or maybe it could be the fact every time she has walked in the Pride parade representing the church she walked alone.”

 

 

Standing Rock Leaders Acquitted 

Hundreds initially charged during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, dozens, so far, found not guilty or cases dropped

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN
– Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II and Councilman Dana Yellow Fat were found not guilty Wednesday in a jury trial on charges of disorderly conduct.

Dave Archambault at police line August 2016

The charges stemmed from an August 12, 2016 incident near the Cannonball Ranch, where Archambault was filmed pushing his way through a police line, and Yellow Fat grabbed a police officer’s arm. The video was definitive proof of guilt to many critics, but not to Bismarck attorney Erica Shively, of Elsberry & Shively, P.C., who defended Archambault and Yellow Fat.  

“I also knew that police officers got in the way of my two clients headed down a public road that they had every right to travel down unrestricted by law enforcement,” Shively said. 

Mclean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson prosecuted the case for Morton County. The jury spent 10 minutes in deliberation before unanimously announcing a not guilty verdict, according to Shively. 

Yellow Fat was unsure of the outcome when he entered the courtroom, he said. 

“Anytime you leave a major decision in the hands of others, no matter how confident you are, there is always that agonizing little voice saying, ‘I hope they get it right,’” Yellow Fat said. 

“I really believe that justice is being served in many of the cases,” Yellow Fat said. “You can’t trample over people’s First Amendment rights to assemble and free speech without negative ramifications. Even if those ramifications are in the court of public opinion. The world watched as this unfolded, and now the world continues to watch it unfold in the court system. 

“These small victories in the court system are a definite positive for our constitutional rights.”

“The State has charged out many cases for which there is no where near adequate evidence to convict folks who were simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” Shively said. “I believe that the state is relying on its belief that the media has sufficiently tainted both the juries and judges in these matters to a point where they will get convictions on bad cases. Thankfully, we are seeing that both the judges and juries, while many may disagree with the position of protesters, they are not letting that affect their duty to deliver justice.”

“It’s really good to hear that Morton County justices are administering the law in this saga,” Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney who also faces felony charges incurred during the Dakota Access controversy, said. “Archambault as well as Councilman Dana Yellow Fat led the early stages of the No DAPL resistance. I fully support the adequate and zealous defense of over 800 people criminally charged in this historic battle.”

Iron Eyes, who ran for Congress in North Dakota last year, said the verdict gives him encouragement. No trial date has been set for his case yet. 

A total of 761 people were charged with crimes during the ten-month controversy, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department. The movement drew more than 20,000 people from across the world to Standing Rock, and ran the state a bill in excess of $38 million, bringing in police from five different states, the National Sheriff’s Association, the mercenary outfit TigerSwan, and criticism from the United Nations. 

Dozens of activists’ cases stemming from the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy have been dismissed, with only a few being found guilty. On May 25, three felony and misdemeanor charges related to piloting a drone against Aaron Sean Turgeon, also known as ‘Prolific the Rapper,’ were dismissed after Surrogate Judge Allan L. Schmalenberger, a former North Dakota Supreme Court Justice, reviewed the case. Shively also defended Turgeon, she said. 

“Of course I knew I was not guilty, but proving it in court is an entirely different thing, and that’s what we did,” Turgeon said in a video outside of the Morton County Courthouse. He said friends and activists surrounded him when police attempted to confiscated his drone. Without their support, he would not have had the video evidence he needed to prove his innocence. 

“A lot of times what you’re being shown by police officers is not true, and I knew it, but it’s not about knowing it, it’s about proving it.” 

“The police officers were clearly coached by the State’s Attorney to fabricate evidence contrary to the facts by falsifying affidavits on their reports in support of their preliminary hearings,” cooperating attorney Danny Sheehan said. 

Aaron Sean Turgeon ‘Prolific the Rapper’ (right) – Facebook page

“Aside from the fact that we had a very thorough and fair judge in this case which made a huge difference, a lot of the basis for the success in the case today was the support of the water protectors and our client Sean’s video evidence that exposed the falsehoods in the state’s case,” cooperating attorney Doug Parr from Oklahoma City said. “One of my concerns is that the charges in this case appear to have been fabricated to justify the no-fly zone that was imposed in late October of last year.”

Ten cases were dismissed by the Morton County State’s Attorney office on May 9, and two other cases were also dismissed on March 30, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective. 

“Oil may be flowing under Lake Oahe, but the arc of the moral universe still bends toward justice,” The Water Protector Legal Collective stated in a press release. “Water protectors are winning the fight against the head of the “black snake” in the courts, and this Movement has inspired so many to continue this fight elsewhere. These are still sacred times.”

On May 18, the United States District Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Dakota Access, LLC against Archambault, Yellowfat, and other activists. The pipeline company filed a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuit, after activists blocked the pipeline’s path in 2016. Dakota Access, LLP claimed it incurred damages of up to $75,000, but Judge Daniel Hovland found that DAPL could not prove its case, thus, the federal court had no jurisdiction.

While Standing Rock activists’ cases are being dismissed, the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline has already sprung two leaks, according to the Williston Herald, the Associated Press, and media outlet Business Insider.

Dana Yellow Fat – Facebook page

On March 3, 84 gallons spilled from a leak where two sections of the pipeline connect in Watford City, and then two days later a smaller leak of 20 gallons occurred in Mercer County, according to Business Insider

Yellow Fat is relieved to have the experience behind him, he said. 

“After 10 months, having my trial continued several times, and feeling the stress of deciding to testify or not, it’s a good feeling to put this behind us. My family has been totally supportive, and I appreciate everything they have done in spite of me having to face these charges. 

“To the hundreds still awaiting their day in court, stay positive, keep the faith, stay in prayer. Have faith in the system.” 

TigerSwan Counterterrorism Tactics Used to Defeat Dakota Access Pipeline “Insurgencies”

By C.S. Hagen
CANNONBALL
– Documents leaked to media outlet The Intercept showed private security firm TigerSwan worked closely with law enforcement from five different states, and used military-style counterterrorism measures against the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.  

Eviction Day at the camps outside of Standing Rock – photo by C.S. Hagen

Activists were identified, then tracked by name through sightings, Tweets, and Facebook posts. Protest sites were allocated numbers, and detailed accounts of day-by-day actions were monitored and reported to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, LLC. Police officers in areas along the pipeline route who were unwilling to make arrests were dealt with, according to documents, and TigerSwan mercenaries daily planned operations with local police. 

The result led to a massive misinformation campaign, the arrests of 761 activists, journalists, and Native Americans, and more than $38 million the state spent during the emergency state declared by former Governor Jack Dalrymple. In addition, at least three activists who joined the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, have been targeted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. 

TigerSwan communications described the movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component,” comparing anti-pipeline activists to jihadist fighters, and stating the agency expected a “post-insurgency model after its collapse,” according to the documents. 

A September 13, 2016 situation report filed to Energy Transfer Partner Chief Security Officer John Porter by TigerSwan said the Dakota Access Pipeline was 99.98 percent on private land, for which all permissions had been obtained. 

In November 2016, however, Republican Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak stated in an interview that the pipeline is solely on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lands and does not have even one case of eminent domain usage against a private individual. 

“All the easements were obtained voluntarily and only go through Corps land,” Fedorchak said.

TigerSwan’s agenda toward correcting and “guiding” the media was also evident as it continuously stressed its agents would be responsible for contacting the press with corrections to their outlined agenda.

TigerSwan Inc., with offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, Latin America, and headquartered in North Carolina, has won more than 13 contracts with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security since 2014 worth more than $9 million, according to USASpending.gov. TigerSwan was founded by Delta Force veteran Jim Reese. The retired lieutenant colonel first worked for the State Department with counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, and was also a former vice president of Blackwater Worldwide, “the world’s most powerful mercenary army,” according to a book written by Jeremy Scahill entitled “Blackwater The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” 

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation looked into private security firms involved with the Energy Transfer Partners near Standing Rock Sioux Reservation last year, and whether the multiple companies involved were authorized to work in the state. The investigation has not led to any charges filed. 

The North Dakota Secretary of State holds one record for TigerSwan, LLC, established in Fargo on November 7, 2016, seven months after the controversy began. 

While North Dakota militarized its police and the state legislature attempted to criminalize many forms of protest last session, the fact that a private security firm retained by a tight-lipped, multi-billion dollar corporation has “profoundly anti-democratic implications,” according to The Intercept

The front line – photo by C.S. Hagen

While the controversy neared its end, an invisible enemy was reported extensively by activists present at the Standing Rock camps. Cellular phones were suddenly drained of power and rendered useless, hard drives were wiped clean. Electronic bugs were discovered inside the nearby Prairie Knights Casino, owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The attacks were considered “psychologically-driven” by nonprofit Geeks Without Bounds, who helped activists fight what it called “cyber warfare.” 

“While we were working in the NoDAPL camps, we knew that these tactics were being used,” Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said. “Our devices would stop working for periods of time, hard drives would be cleared of information and footage, and from time to time camp security would identify infiltrators inside the camp who were working for Energy Transfer Partners.”

In addition to the cyber warfare, at least one private security person attempted to infiltrate the camps, and one individual armed with a fake gun wrapped in duct tape was sighted. 

Brennon Nastacio and Kyle Thompson on October 27, 2016 – online sources

Kyle Thompson, of Bismarck, was disarmed by activists then turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Thompson was later handed over to Morton County, and then released, called a victim. No charges were filed at that time, but Thompson was later arrested in an unrelated case on drug and weapons charges in April 2017 by Bismarck Police. 

“Now we have the evidence. This proof also tells us more about the militarization of the police and the violence they imposed on water protectors. By comparing indigenous peoples to civilians and jihadist fighters, police and security were essentially given permission to carry out war-like tactics on water protectors.” 

The activists who disarmed Thompson of an AR-15 as he was headed toward the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, face felony charges. 

Thompson worked for Thompson-Gray LLC, listed under Silverton Consulting International by the Ohio Secretary of State, according to paperwork discovered inside his truck. The company was not authorized to work in North Dakota, and was owned by Charles Graham Clifton, a man who has at least three civil lawsuits filed against him. 

TigerSwan has ingratiated itself with the National Sheriffs’ Association by becoming a silver partner, according to the National Sheriffs’ Association website. The National Sheriffs’ Association was involved heavily during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy and wrote a letter the US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, demonizing unarmed activists and the federal government’s lack of response in what it called a deluge of arson, vandals, rioting, and intimidation. 

North Dakota is the second-biggest oil producing state in the United States, and has within its borders an oil patch among the ten largest in the world. Historically, the state been lackadaisical about instituting stricter regulations. A spirit of leniency toward oil companies has been fostered in North Dakota, analysts say. Criticism over lowering fines for oil and saltwater spills and property tax hikes to support big oil’s return have mounted. In January 2016 the North Dakota Industrial Commission, Oil and Gas Division agreed to scrutinize the issues, but behind closed doors. 

Law enforcement behind their own barricade – photo by C.S. Hagen

Some of the state’s top politicians are chairmen or members of regulating agencies governing big oil and Native American interests. Additionally, big oil supports the political campaigns of Senator John Hoeven, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and Rep. Kevin Cramer, making their voices, according to some, tainted.

The cozy relationship between TigerSwan, law enforcement agencies, the National Sheriff’s Association, and the Peace Garden State’s politicians with the oil and gas industry suggests a partnership that threatens free speech, human rights, and the very basis of democracy. 

“The usage of counterterrorism tactics upon our NoDAPL movement is not only extremely disturbing, but feeds into a historical narrative of oppression that indigenous peoples and people of color have dealt with for generations,” Tom Goldtooth, also of he Indigenous Environmental Network stated. “Many of our brothers and sisters incarcerated across the country for their activism are political prisoners as a result of such disruptive tactics used by companies like TigerSwan.” 

Where have all the pollinators gone?

Will proposed budget cuts to the EPA and the formation of the state’s own Department of Environmental Quality hurt or help North Dakota’s bees?  

By C.S. Hagen
JAMESTOWN – Katrina Klett grew up running in fields with bees stinging her bare feet. Her parents constantly reminded her to put on shoes, but she rarely listened. 

Today, the family company she helps run in Jamestown, Klett Beekeeping, has more than 1,200 commercial bee colonies. She lives in southwest China, but returns home to help her father during the busier months. More than 10,000 miles away and at an elevation where any Red River Valley native would demand an oxygen tank, her main calling is with Elevated Honey Co., near the Himalayan Mountains in Yunnan Province, China. 

To Klett, bees are a part of her family. She learned the trade secrets from her father, from university professors, from Chinese mentors, and despite recent government attempts to bring back the honey bees, they’re still disappearing, she said. 

“The overall decline of the honey bee is continuing,” Klett said. Her family loses approximately 30 percent of their bees every year. “And the overall losses that beekeepers take during the winter months is still not sustainable.” 

The killers are elusive. She points to pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, but also to Asian parasites brought over from Korea in 1987 and most importantly, a lack of conservation lands, rich in diversity. 

“It’s truly not a smoking gun,” Klett said. “It’s not fair to say that it’s just pesticides causing these problems, but it’s a large part of it.” 

As the nation’s top honey producer and pollination state, North Dakota was also the first to draw up a pollinator plan, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. It is a plan that will soon be adopted in 43 states. 

In North Dakota, sometimes the prairies are covered as far as the eye can see with only one crop. 

“The big problem in the United States is that we have this very large scale agricultural system and we’re finding out that bees find it very hard to live in this system,” Klett said. Herbicides and fertilizers and other chemicals are used to breed out unwanted plants, creating rows and rows of  homogenous corn, alfalfa, sugar beets. 

Nutrition in North Dakota is the biggest issue, Goehring said. “They [beekeepers] go and flood an area with pollinators where they may not be enough species, and enough pollen, and enough vegetation to support those bees.”

Colonies of bees are up across the state, Goehring said, from 480,000 colonies to 620,000 colonies. 

Colonies may have increased, but the bees are still disappearing, Klett said. “It is important to differentiate between Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall quality of health in bees that is going on.” 

Few such killers exist in China, Klett said. High up in the mountains, most farms are family owned, smaller and diverse in scale, offering bees a kaleidoscope of nectars and pollens. Most produce in China should not be eaten raw, as many farms still fertilize with “honey buckets” or human waste. Rice paddies hemmed by poppy, wildflowers, sunflowers growing next door to tiered layers of corn, are the traditional Chinese farmer’s methods. 

Additionally, restrictions for the Conservation Reserve Program were relaxed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015. The Conservation Reserve Program offers federal money to farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Such policies are shrinking the honey bee’s menu, according to Klett. 

Bees are not only the producers of honey, they help pollinate more than 35 percent of the world’s food supply, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Pollinators, including bats and birds, are crucial to the survival of more than just honey. 

The combination of a lack of nutrition, diversity, and Asian parasites, is lethal, and weaken bees, leaving them highly susceptible to chemicals used by farmers, Klett said. 

The missing bee – photo by C.S. Hagen

As recent as March this year, General Mills joined the fight against herbicides by pulling their mascot “Buzz” the bumblebee from their boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios as a reminder that the world’s population of bees is plummeting. The company has also sent out free seed packets, a move many find to be controversial and doing little to help the crisis. 

The main herbicidal producer in America, the Monsanto Company, declares itself as a farmer-empowering agricultural company and a producer of seed brands like corn, cotton, oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables. Monsanto also manufactures Roundup-branded herbicides for farmers and lawns, according to its website. Roundup products are a known stressor of bees, according to media outlet Natural News. Glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide, eliminates bees’ instincts to feed and confuses olfactory memory. 

Certain types of bees have been placed on the endangered species list, and as of January 2017 some have been nearly wiped out with one dose of Monsanto’s Roundup products, according to media outlet GMO News.  

“Honey bee navigation is affected by ingesting traces of the most widely used herbicide worldwide [glyphosate], with potential long-term negative consequences for colony foraging success,” The Journal of Experimental Biology reported. 

Additionally, the same herbicide is known to have negative effects on vertebrates and invertebrates, including earthworms, reproduction cycles of freshwater snails, according to The Journal of Experimental Biology. A 2016 study made public by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration reported that honey samples from across the United States all contain glyphosate, a chemical that is considered a probable human cancer-causing carcinogen by the World Health Organization. 

Other chemicals known as carcinogenic to humans are: tetrachlorvinphos, used on livestock and pet flea collars; parathion, now illegal in the USA; malathion, used in agriculture, public health, and residential insect control, and diazinon, current restricted.  

 

Colony Collapse Disorder
Bee losses hit 42.1 percent across the nation, according to a 2015 report made public by the United States Department of Agriculture. Losses are heaviest during the spring and summer months, the time of year farmers spray pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and use artificial fertilizers on their fields.  

Bees hit with fungicide are three times more prone to infection, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2013, researchers collected pollen samples from honey bees pollinating apples, watermelons, cucumbers, blueberries, and other fruits and found most samples contained insecticides, herbicides, and that all samples contained fungicide.  

The sickness threatens Colony Collapse Disorder, which endangers “not only pollination and honey production but, much more, this crisis threatens to wipe out production of crops dependent on bees for pollination,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables.”  

The epidemic began slowly after World War II, and more recently noted as isolated incidents when beekeepers reported losses of up to 90 percent of their hives. 

“Although pesticides alone have not been implicated as the principal cause of overall pollinator declines, the EPA and the USDA have been working collaboratively to understand the potential role that pesticides may be playing, particularly in combination with other identified factors,” a 2015 report made public by the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated. 

More than 87 million acres of corn and 17 million acres of alfalfa are planted in the continental United States each year, and both crops are highly attractive to bees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Gary Hart, director of the Center for Rural Health, said he lives in the countryside. Pesticides blown by winds are a concern for him and his family. “Heaven knows, I get the pesticides coming in and we have to shut the windows and hide when they’re blowing,” he said.  

The concern about bees is a national worry, he said, and not just for the Peace Garden State.

 

EPA cuts and the state taking back control
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency for North Dakota is managed from Denver, Colorado, more than 700 miles away. North Dakota is known as Region 8, and as the EPA prepares to have its budget cut by up to 30 percent, environmental issues in the state could have “severe” implications, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. 

“North Dakota has a lot at risk,” Steve Hirsh of the Environmental Defense Fund said. “A half-million people in the state rely on headwater, rain-fed and seasonal streams for drinking water.”

The cuts are a Republican effort to deplete federal authority and push local management back on to cash-strapped states, according to Hirsh. Goehring prefers the term “cooperative federalism,” he said. 

“This budget, if enacted, will devastate the ability of our state members to clean up the air,” Executive Director of the  National Association of Clean Air Agencies S. William Becker said. “I can predict with certainty that if these budget cuts come to fruition, there will be many more people dying prematurely and getting sick.”

“President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget is a full-scale attack on America’s most fundamental health and safety protections,” Environmental Defense Fund President President Fred Krupp said. “It would gut our ability to keep our air and water clean, and would put the health of all Americans at risk.”

North Dakota’s current environmental agencies are a “convoluted complex animal,” and include three entities: the Health Department, soon to severed and become the “Department of Environmental Quality” and will be in charge of environmental issues, the Department of Mineral Resources, in charge of oil and gas development, and the Department of Agriculture, in charge of pesticides and fertilizers, all of whom have primacy, or the lead against federal interference, Goehring said. 

“We have cooperation agreements with the EPA, and we have meetings with them once or twice a year and talk about where the federal government is needed, but it ends up being a bit of a battle at times,” Goehring said. “The only thing is, we do receive federal grants to do the work, that’s the agreement we have with them, in other words they don’t have personnel out here to do it, and quite frankly we don’t want them up here anyway. 

“Don’t tell us you love our land more than we do.” 

Grants up to $46 million from the EPA cover a fourth of North Dakota’s air quality monitoring, toxic waste site management, lake and river protection, and manage 128 brownfields, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Budget cuts proposed by President Trump’s Administration to balance the national debt could reduce lead reduction efforts and exacerbate poisoned waters with runoff pollution from urban streets and energy production, if such programs continue to exist at all. 

“Are they cuts that exist within the EPA, or will they be passed on to us?” Goehring said. “We have had some assurances from D.C. that the cuts will be supposedly targeted toward the EPA and not targeted toward the states. Maybe we will experience a few cuts, but most cuts are directed toward the big monster that the EPA is in size.” 

Other programs such as fighting cyanobacteria, judicially known as “blue-green algae,” may be threatened. Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms that bloom in slow-moving water, such as ponds and lakes, and can be toxic for animals and humans, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. If such toxins are ingested, there is no cure, and very few laboratories that can test for cyanobacteria.  

Bakken earth is poisoned, according an April 27, 2016 study released by Duke University, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and published in the Environmental Science & Technology magazine. The study shows that accidental wastewater spills from “unconventional oil production in North Dakota have caused widespread water and soil contamination.” 

Much of the poisons come from brine, or saltwater used in frakking, and is non-biodegradable. 

In a move some call wise, state legislators passed Senate Bill 2327 shortly before the end of the 2017 legislative session. The bill was introduced by Republican senators Jessica Unruh, Kelly Armstrong, and Rich Wardner, and Republican representatives Al Carlson, Keith Kepmenich, and Todd Porter.

The bill transfers all state authority, powers, and duties related to environmental quality to the newly-formed “Department of Environmental Quality” before July 1, 2019. The new department’s duties will include oil drilling regulations and to pesticide and radioactive “byproduct material” management. Also included under the department’s purview are zoning regulations, or setback distances between livestock, residential, and agricultural operations, and the licensing, management, and custody of radioactive and hazardous wastes and underground storage or regulated substances.

The council is to consist of nine members appointed by the governor, including four people in the healthcare field and five people representing consumer interests, according to Senate Bill 2327. The director of the department will “serve at the pleasure of the governor,” must have a bachelor of science degree or higher from an accredited college, and may not engage in any other occupation or business that conflicts with statutory duties. 

The North Dakota Century Code was amended to reinforce Department of Environmental Quality as the public health authority in the state, trumping the EPA.

 

Communication and location are the keys
Beekeepers need to look for locations with plenty of diversity and water, Goehring said. “Bees need water just like any other animal. Look to soil health, especially for vegetables and flowering plants.” 

Phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, as well as other minerals are needed for plant virility and diversity, and the more diverse an area is, the faster bees will thrive. Chemicals, although harmful, aren’t the main factor behind bee disappearance, Goehring said.

“A lot of pesticides that farmers use won’t even harm bees, but there are a lot of insecticides that will,” Goehring said. Beekeepers and bees are farmers’ guests, and there needs to be good communication between agriculturalists and beekeepers. 

Klett added that the federal government should assist more with communication incentives, and the tightening of regulations on Conservation Reserve Programs. “One of the biggest problems is the complete loss of bee habitat in the countryside.” Most of the time farmers care about beekeepers, although some beekeepers have reported careless farmers. “For the most part, they really want to work with us and help us out. Big fruit and vegetable producers need our services, but we’re finding out that if there isn’t a pesticide free habitat then the bees get sick and they don’t do well. 

“It’s a rock and hard place.” 

China’s farmers may possess the only true antidote for bee virility, and the answer lies with diversity. “China is one of the most diverse places for honey bees in the world,” Klett said. 

“Beekeeping is an interesting form of agriculture. You can’t make it mechanized. You have to have someone who really understands bees. There are just 1,000 or so families providing most of the pollination services and to an extent, they are largely invisible. 

“I would like to see a good Conservation Reserve Program come back. Commodity prices are down, this would be a great time to do that.” 

North Dakota Deadliest State To Work – Again

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – North Dakota, once again, topped national charts to become the deadliest state in which to work in America, five years running. 

The 2017 edition of “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect,” compiled by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, a national trade union center and the largest federation of unions in America, reported that for the fifth year in a row North Dakota had the most fatalities of workers while on the job, nearly four times the national rate. 

The leading spot comes with a 28 percent increase from the preceding year, 2014. Forty-seven people died while on the job in North Dakota in 2015, and 43 of the cases were investigated by Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, according to the report. The number of fatalities is numerically lower than other states, but is reflective of the ratio of workers to residents.  

North Dakota had a total of 437,072 employees in the state in 2015, with 32,140 establishments. 

A total of four deaths were the result of assault and violent acts, 28 stemmed from transportation accidents, three came from fires and explosions, and seven deaths from contact with objects and equipment, according to the report. 

In 2015, 4,386 workers were killed on the job within the United States, which equates to 3.4 per 100,000 workers. An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 died for occupational diseases, 150 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions, and approximately up to 11.1 million people were injured while on the job. 

In North Dakota, 12.5 per 100,000 workers were injured on the job, according to the report. Wyoming took second spot for 12 per 100,000 workers and Montana third place, with 7.4 per 100,000 workers killed.  

The lowest state fatality rate belongs to Rhode Island with 1.2 per 100,000 workers killed on the job in 2015. 

The fatality rate for 2015 is the not highest yet, which reported 65 workers killed in 2012, and 56 workers killed in 2013. 

More than 570,000 workers’ lives have been saved since the passing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which promised workers the right to a safe job in America. 

“The Obama Administration had a strong track record on worker safety and health, strengthening enforcement, issuing key safety and health standards, and improving anti-retaliation protections and other rights for workers,” the AFL-CIO report stated. 

“With the election of President Trump, the political landscape has shifted dramatically, and many of these gains are threatened. President Trump has moved aggressively on his deregulatory agenda, repealing and delaying worker safety and other rules and proposing deep cuts in the budget, and the elimination of worker safety and health training and other programs.” 

An average penalty for serious violations of $2,723 was levied in 2015 in North Dakota, according to the report. The national median penalty fatality rate was $2,087, according to OSHA statistics. 

The increased rate of deaths on the job is attributed primarily to the oil and gas industry, where Latino workers are the hardest hit across the nation. Since 2009, 220 Latino workers have died performing oil and gas work. In 2012, 11 out of the 12 Latino workers who died in North Dakota were immigrant workers, according to the report. 

Up until 2009, there were no Latino or Hispanic worker fatalities in the state, according to the report. Since then, however, 27 Latinos have been killed in North Dakota. A total of 25 foreign-born workers were killed in North Dakota since 2010, with an addition of four more in 2003. 

“Many oil and gas workers die from traumatic injuries from being struck by or against tools or equipment, caught in-between equipment, falls, electric shock, and burns or scalds,” the report stated. “Deaths from acute chemical exposure near oil tanks often are undercounted.” 

In February 2016, OSHA co-published the “Health and Safety Risks for Workers Involved in Manual Tank gauging and Sampling at Oil and Gas Extraction Sites” to inform employers and workers about the dangers that exist. Many workers along oil extraction sites are exposed to chemical inhalation injuries and benzene – a known carcinogen – exposure. 

Silica dust exposure has also been identified as a major health hazard in hydraulic frakking operations, according to the report. 

In 2015, North Dakota had one worker fatality who was involved in metal and nonmetal mining. A total of 304 workplace safety and health citations were issued in 2016, according to the report. 

 

Might And Money Win Again 

As pipelines leak, and Bakken soil is poisoned, North Dakota politicians snuggle closer to oil tycoons

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– The collusion between might and money historically has been the beginning of the end for countless empires. 

From China’s Shang Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago to the American Revolutionary War against a corrupt monarchy, when power marries money, downfall always follows.  

North Dakota government’s collusion with private corporations is “so expansive that there does not appear to be a sense in the general public where there is anything wrong with this,” Barry Nelson of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition said. 

It was the same when ancient China’s King Zhou Xin created a pond filled with wine to float on, or when King George III raised taxes on the colonies to fill royal coffers. Both leaders, at the pinnacle of empire, decided not to listen to what was right, but to what they thought was profitable. 

No ethics committees or commissions exist within the Peace Garden State. Instead, the North Dakota Century Code leaves ethical decisions up to the individual.

“The resolution of ethical problems must rest largely in the individual conscience… to resist influences that may bias a member’s independent judgment,” North Dakota legislation reports. 

Today, the Dakota Access Pipeline is leaking, and the Bakken earth is poisoned. Politicians are welcoming slick-talking oil tycoons like conquering heroes. Despite a United Nations condemnation of state militarized tactics in March, little, if anything, has changed in the Peace Garden State. Hundreds the 761 activists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy still await trial, adding to the approximately $38 million the state has already spent militarizing local police and quelling the disquiet outside of Standing Rock. And while litigation continues, it’s business as usual for state politicians. 

On April 19 Valley News Live “Point of View” Anchor Chris Berg posted pictures of Congressman Kevin Cramer R-ND, ceremoniously giving Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren the pen President Trump used to sign the DAPL executive order. Additionally, Berg thanked Warren online for traveling to the Peace Garden State, and asked Governor Doug Burgum – not for the first time – if the state would accept a fat check from the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners. 

Pictures of Rep. Kevin Cramer presenting Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren with pen President Trump used to sign the DAPL executive order – photo listed on POVnow Facebook page

It is a move many suggest is similar to the age of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency collusion with the federal government. Warren continues to offer to pay in full the state’s expenditures used in militarizing police and cracking down on Standing Rock and the No DAPL movement. 

So far, the offer has not been rejected by state politicians.

North Dakota will receive up to $15 million in federal funding for costs incurred during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, according to Governor Burgum’s office. 

“We’re committed to pursuing all avenues available to hold the federal government responsible and ensure that North Dakota taxpayers alone don’t bear the enormous costs of law enforcement and other resources expended on the protests,” Burgum said. 

Rep. Kevin Cramer and Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren – photo posted on POVnow Facebook page

Burgum also sent a letter to President Trump stating that the federal government is significantly responsible for costs due to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ failure to enforce regulations. 

“Ethically, it has all the appearances – it has a smell to it – it seems to be undue influence of one industry, one company, on federal and state governments, and you want to believe the government is there to make sure all sides of the issue are addressed,” Nelson said.  

During the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, the state was not looking out for all sides of the dispute, rather to assist oil industry’s agenda, Nelson said. 

“It’s one thing when it feels like collusion between a government official, in this case Kevin Cramer, and a corporate head of a private industry, in this case a pipeline company, if the general public feels all of this was perfectly justified, then what is considered right and wrong anymore? It makes you step back. The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition believes that this kind of collusion between private industry and government is wrong. Good cannot come out of this. 

“It speaks so much about power and money against the people.” 

Bakken earth is poisoned, according an April 27, 2016 study released by Duke University, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and published in the Environmental Science & Technology magazine. The study shows that accidental wastewater spills from “unconventional oil production in North Dakota have caused widespread water and soil contamination.” 

Much of the poisons come from brine, or saltwater used in frakking, and is non-biodegradable. 

More than 9,700 wells have been drilled in the Bakken region of North Dakota in the past decade, which led to more than 3,900 brine spills, primarily from faulty pipes, the report states.

The water studied in some spill sites was unsafe to drink, the study reported.

High levels of ammonium, selenium, lead, and salts have been found in the soil; streams have been polluted by wastewater, which contain contaminants, according to the study. Soil along spill sites has also been contaminated with radium, a radioactive element.

“Many smaller spills have also occurred on tribal lands, and as far as we know, no one is monitoring them,” Avner Vengosh, a researcher and a professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University said. “People who live on the reservations are being left to wonder how it might affect their land, water, health and way of life.”

The spills are primarily coming from pipelines in the Bakken area, he said. The spill areas have not affected reservoirs for human drinking water, but some are close. Everyone shudders when news of an oil spill breaks headlines; brine spills are far more frightening, he said.

“Nature cannot heal from inorganic brine spills,” Vengosh said. “The contaminants are going to stay. You can dilute and over time this will help, but the actual concentration will remain.”

In other words, areas where the brine spills have occurred in the Bakken region must be completely removed and disposed of. Radiation, which could spread by wild animals, is another concern that is difficult to control.

“And the more wells you drill, the more spills you have,” Vengosh said..

The narrative spun by the state has assumed that the need for militarized security was because of out-of-state environmental terrorists who chose to stake their claim here, Nelson said. “So no responsibility is placed on bad decisions made by the state legislators, that the company violated laws and did things that were illegal. None of that is laid at their doorstep. All is on the doorstep of people coming from around the country, and locally from Standing Rock. 

“It’s blaming the rape victim that they got raped.”

Additionally, the 1,100-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline, made from “sterner stuff” according to politicians and engineers, and with Russian steel, according to DeSmog, has already leaked 84 gallons in South Dakota. A storage tank outside of Keene, North Dakota spilled 25,620 gallons when an operator overfilled the tank, according to North Dakota Department of Health. 

Both spills took investigators a month to announce the mishaps to the public.

“This spills serves as a reminder that it is not a matter of if a pipeline spills, it’s a matter of when a pipeline spills,” Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said. “The fact that this occurred before Dakota Access even becomes operational is all the more concerning. We fear more spills will come to bear, which is an all too frequent situation with Energy Transfer Partners pipeline projects. As such, eyes of the world are watching and will keep Dakota Access and Energy Transfer Partners accountable.”

Although most of the world thinks Standing Rock’s movement is dead, remnants remain. For months, Facebook statuses reported former Dakota Access Pipeline activists, or water protectors, felt lost after the February closing of the camps outside Standing Rock. Dozens of cases have been thrown out of court, but not all. 

Some water protectors are still wandering. Others have found new causes defending water at Flint, Michigan, Dresden, Ohio, and against the Piñon Pipeline in New Mexico. Activists have also set up the Four Band Great Sioux Nation Camp on Standing Rock land.

The movement against big oil, for native rights and clean water, has spurred at least fifteen new camps to life around the country, according to Rev. Karen Van Fossan, a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship & Church of Bismarck-Mandan. 

A “Stand with Standing Rock” banner hangs outside her church, a congregation that has been in Bismarck for 65 years. During the controversy her church and church members housed at least 250 activists. The stance her church takes on the issue has created controversy in Bismarck she said, but is also a blessing in disguise. 

“Some of us who are white, and haven’t experienced racism in any kind of real way, have now had some glimpse of what that experience might be like,” Fossan said. 

“In my experience, the water protector movement has given us in North Dakota an opportunity to face some pretty harsh realities about racism in our state. I sometimes hear it said that race relations are more strained now than they have been in some time, and people of color who I know tell me actually, the racism has been there. 

“Now it is just that all of us are taking the opportunity to look at it and contend with it.” 

State support of big business has trampled indigenous rights, but has given the state a unique opportunity for change. 

“I have been increasingly concerned about the role of many governmental entities, locally and statewide, promoting the interests of business and painfully ignoring other voices,” Fossan, who is also a writer, said. 

“Even while I’m deeply disturbed by the executive order to push the pipeline through against the very clear voices of Standing Rock and many other native nations, I do see that here locally in Bismarck and Mandan, we continue to have an opportunity like we haven’t had in a long time to look at the reality of life in our communities, and the reality of racism. Not just personal visible racism that many indigenous people and people of color in our communities experience regularly, but the systems themselves are already rolling along in ways that at best ignore indigenous voices and at worst push a pipeline through, and manifest in the arrests of hundreds of people.”

Fourth Estate For Sale

As dark money pours into a conservative infiltration of traditionally liberal mainstream media, “Who among us is without bias?”

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Working from inside a taffy shop in Medora a little-known conservative nonprofit quickly rose to the national frontline by infiltrating statehouses with trained and like minded journalists. 

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, part brainchild of former executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party, Jason Stverak, was registered in North Dakota during a record-setting blizzard on January 13, 2009 with one main goal: to “perform outreach to the United States’ new media to train and collaborate with those online journalists who are seeking to shine a bright light on the various state and local governments around the country,” according to the Franklin Center’s 2015 Internal Revenue Service filings.

Jason Stverak – LinkedIn photo

The infiltration began long before the recent far-right’s wolf cries against liberal “fake news,” time enough to begin manipulating and financing conservative attacks on labor unions, climate scientists, public schools, and economic regulations. For eight years, the Franklin Center’s lengthening arm has reached into kindergartens and high schools through the Walton Family Foundation, a major funder of charter schools, and into state capitols, becoming at times mainstream media’s unfiltered voice of favored politicians.  

For conservatives, organizations like the Franklin Center are simply trying to “balance the scales” from a left-of-center media domination; for liberals, the strategic placement promotes bias. 

The Franklin Center shrewdly took advantage of a gap, which started in 2001 when cash-strapped news agencies began firing journalists due to a decline in circulations, and it began to “directly address that gap in state-capitol reporting,” according to 2015 IRS filings. The Franklin Center’s aim was to become a watchdog for government waste, fraud, and abuse in state and local governments. Today, the Franklin Center, a nonprofit, helps deliver news free to local newspapers in more than 40 states, including North Dakota, and claims to be the source of 10 percent of all state news in the United States. 

According to 2011 IRS tax filings, the Franklin Center assigned letters or numbers to each contributor to protect anonymity. Realizing that the “press could be the strongest asset of those hoping to found a new nation,” the Franklin Center provided support for “several state-based organizations to establish news organization to provide original news content.”

With its principal office in Alexandria, Virginia, and an address now registered inside Bismarck’s Dakota Community Bank, the Franklin Center is listed as a tax-exempt corporation by the IRS, and receives much of its funding from Donors Trust and its sister, Donors Capital Fund, right wing conservative foundations that funnel anonymously-contributed funds, known as “dark money” to a vast network of think tanks and media outlets, the Center for Public Integrity reported. Both charities are funded in part by  the DeVose family, the Koch brothers and the Bradley family, which have ties to the far right-wing John Birch Society. 

Donors Trust is a charitable organization promising anonymity and non-divergence from the organization’s goals to support conservative agendas, according to its website. Since 2004, Donors Trust has solicited more than $412,270,052 in funds, according to the IRS. 

The Franklin Center’s mouthpiece, Watchdog.org, reports it is a nonpartisan news organization, but receives nearly 95 percent of its funding from the Franklin Center, according to the IRS.

Stverak’s motto on his Facebook fan page is, “One man with a laptop and a wireless card is more powerful than the New York Times.” The page has seen little action since 2014, after he became Cramer’s director of communications. In 2008, Stverak was with the Sam Adams Alliance, a political activist group that helped setup the Franklin Center. He is currently listed as the founder of Haym Salomon Center and a lobbyist for the Christians United for Israel Action Fund, according to his LinkedIn page. Stverak did not reply to requests for comment.

Starting with a budget of zero dollars, the Franklin Center’s budget jumped to $2.4 million within a year, according to IRS filings. From  2011 until 2015, the Franklin Center solicited a total of $45,129,491 for the express purpose of supporting news outlets such as Watchdog.org and fund individual reporters to push conservative agendas through the media such as the Say Anything Blog, according to Source Watch and Media Matters. The Say Anything Blog is now owned by the Forum Communications Company and edited by Rob Port. 

“They’re wrong, but they’re not terribly credible sources” Port said. 

Port is the founder of Say Anything Blog, and was formerly a Watchdog.org reporter, simultaneously writing for Say Anything Blog. Port sees the conservative responses to a predominantly liberal media as an attempt at balance. Nearly half the nation votes Republican, and the media has underrepresented them, Port said.

“The Franklin Center comes up and suddenly they’re evil. The Franklin Center is a manifestation of a sort of polarization that already happened,” Port said. “Where there is demand there will be supply, and I think outlets like talk radio, blogging, and nonprofits like the Franklin Center are serving the demand for something the people aren’t getting.” 

The Franklin Center holds “several training sessions throughout the year, equipping our reporters with strategies and tactics uniquely suited to their mission and reporting efforts,” according to the center’s 2011 IRS filings. Currently, the Franklin Center has 14 listed reporters with Watchdog.org, six communications directors, four people in leadership roles, and two in development working for Watchdog.org, according to its website. 

In 2014, the Franklin Center received $205,000 for K-12 education grants by the Walton Family Foundation, according to the Walton Family Foundation website. The Walton family also despises unions, and it spends heavily to promote charter schools and legislation to allow federal funds into private schools, according to Mercedes Schneider, author of “School Choice: The End of Public Education?” The family’s retail chain, Walmart, has been cited for violating child labor laws and for bribing Mexican officials to speed up building permits. Furthermore, the Walton family has employed prison labor to grow produce, and though it operates 4,000 stores across the USA, its employees must rely on public programs for health care coverage, Schneider reported.

The Franklin Center is also a sponsor of the Koch Industries-funded ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate bill mill where corporations hand state legislators their wishlists, according to Source Watch and Conservative Transparency

“There’s a lot of mythology about this, but usually when people talk about this it is evil money, Koch brothers’ money,” Port said. “A lot of people who make a statement that the Koch brothers funded it, so what? George Soros funded it, so what? I don’t see a problem with people putting more information out.” 

Where many look at the media today and see polarization, Port sees pragmatism.

“There never was unbiased journalism,” Port said. “Who among us is without bias?” 

Agencies like the Franklin Center and Watchdog.org are reinforcing their journalists with bias, and conservatives and liberals alike are guilty of similar tactics, according to C.T. Hanson, professor of communication and journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. 

“It is an ethics issue, and I think it’s a little like using social media for your source of news, there’s no filtering and that’s the problem, if you train people to look at one side of things, or have a bias, then it impacts the information you share with the general public,” Hanson said. 

“And it’s getting worse in terms of having objective truths surface because not only do we have biased reporters but the public is taking sides in terms of media consumption. So we only tune in or we only read publications that fit our mindset, which is a natural thing. You look for information that confirms your beliefs and values and you shy away from the things that seem contrary to what you believe or value. 

“It certainly does get in the way of the truth being told.”

The watchdogs

The North Dakota Watchdog Network is not associated with the Franklin Center’s Watchdogs. “We are completely independent, 100 percent in-state funded,” founder of the North Dakota Watchdog Network Dustin Gawrylow said. The North Dakota Watchdog Network doesn’t try to hide the fact that it has a conservative agenda.

“The Franklin Center tries to give the pure journalism perception, even though everybody knows they’re not,” Gawrylow said. “I don’t try to give that perception. My model is not similar to theirs.”

The North Dakota Watchdog Network started out as the Koch Industries’ supported North Dakota Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which ended in 2008, he then started the North Dakota Taxpayers Association. 

Dustin Gawrylow – Facebook photo

“We’ve always been the conservatives pushing Republicans in the right direction, wrapped around general transparency and good government,” Gawrylow said. “As long as Republicans are pushing for less government and Democrats are pushing for good government, we will have a better product in the end. Unfortunately, more times than not neither none of those things happen. It’s everybody for themselves, and everyone wants to run their own empire.” 

In 2012, he went after Congressman Rick Berg, criticizing his use of taxpayer-funded “slick campaign” mailers sent to state residents during his campaign for a Senate seat. The controversy created difficulties, and he later started the North Dakota Watchdog Network. 

He tried to obtain sponsorship from the Franklin Center, but “it never went any farther than one discussion. We’ve never really reached out to national money, I run a pretty bare bones operation the way it is.” He is in contact with the Franklin Center and other similar organizations, Gawrylow said. 

Eighty percent of Gawrylow’s network donors are mainstream Republicans in North Dakota, the rest are independent or Libertarian, he said. 

The North Dakota Watchdog Network raised $44,957 in 2015 and $71,236 in 2014, according to the IRS. Funds were spread across the state with at least $43,189 going toward publications, and $63,209 toward professional fees, according to the IRS. In 2015 the North Dakota Watchdog Network overspent, eating most of the previous year’s balance of $17,691. 

Gawrylow, of Bismarck, is not a Trump fan, nor did he climb onto the Obama bandwagon. He is frequently interviewed on radio and television news stations. Gawrylow’s articles are published in publications such as the Grand Forks Herald, Say Anything Blog, and the The Dickinson Press, all of which are owned by the Forum Communications Company.

The conservative fascination with infiltrating the media was in part a response to the left’s domination in the press, he said. 

“Conservatives are always slow to react to technology or structural changes,” he said. Gawrylow is one part lobbyist, or “anti-lobbyist” as he frequently fights lobbyists, one part journalist, and one part activist, who has managed campaigns, participated in legislative races, and writes — unabashedly — about issues in the state reflecting his political views. 

He mixes politics and journalism because he doesn’t claim to be a journalist first. “People know I have an agenda, people know I have my own goals, and instead of being a journalist with an agenda, I try to have an agenda that uses journalism.

As a conservative, he rarely sees a conversation including both sides to an issue in any publication in North Dakota. Media outlets belonging to the Fargo Communications Company pay homage to the establishment on both sides, but not to those outside the aisle, Gawrylow said, and the result is a media war further polarizing the differences between conservatives and liberals, and between intellectuals and anti-intellectuals.

“If you’re the underdog conservative willing to speak out against the establishment Republicans, you get the cold shoulder by the conservative media and the liberal media will let you have as much time as you can possibly use. It’s very shocking, and that’s the way our media works here in this state.”

The Fargo Communications Company owns 30 newspapers, one monthly magazine, 20 shopping and three agricultural publications, radio station WDAY-AM970, and four television stations all affiliated with the ABC Network, according to its website. 

Gawrylow and a listed officer of the North Dakota Watchdog Network, Duane Sand, who has frequently run for government office in North Dakota, are also listed in 2015 as registered lobbyists for Independent Water Providers, water pumping services sold to oil frakking companies, according to the Secretary of State of North Dakota. Sand is also listed as a lobbyist in 2016, and Gawrylow is listed as a registered lobbyist for the North Dakota Watchdog Network in 2017. 

The Franklin Center’s Watchdogs operate in North Dakota and across the United States through Watchdog.org, according to media outlet Mother Jones and the Center for Public Integrity. In 2011, Donors Trust helped the Franklin Center expand state-based reporting projects in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Virginia, according to the Center for Public Integrity. 

“They [Franklin Center] were an organization and somebody who wanted to promote state-based reporting,” Port said. “I was already doing that and I did some of it for them. They weren’t hiding the fact that they were a free market oriented organization. Most of the people who worked there were people who worked in journalism, but absolutely, there was an ideology present, they felt they were right of center at the very least.” 

Port started blogging in 2003, and began writing as a type of journal. He’s a college dropout, once worked with his father as a private investigator primarily investigating insurance fraud, and also spent time working for the Scott Hennen Show, he said. 

He has tried inviting liberals onto his show and to write for Say Anything Blog, but he’s mostly ignored, Port said. “The North Dakota Democratic Party won’t send me press releases. They try to pretend I don’t exist. The left in this state works to ‘othering,’ I think that’s the word for it. I’m the ‘other.’ I’m the boogeyman, and they don’t want to engage me.” 

Port frequently publishes articles from Gawrylow on Say Anything Blog. He also has worked with former president and CEO of Freedom Force Communications LLC Scott Hennen, who hosts the far-right Scott Hennen Show on AM1100 “The Flag” and FM106.9 “The Eagle,” both conservative radio programs that broadcasted one-sided interviews and cast long, dark shadows across the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy in 2016. 

Port once worked for Stverak with Watchdog North Dakota Bureau, where he won “Watchdog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and Americans for Prosperity Award for Online Excellence” in 2011. Between Watchdog.org work and the Fargo Forum, Port detoured and wrote for HPR Magazine as a columnist. His articles through Say Anything Blog are published in newspapers including the Fargo Forum, River Falls Journal in Wisconsin, The Pioneer, West Fargo Journal, Duluth News Tribune, the Jamestown Sun, all of which fall under the Forum Communications Company’s widening umbrella. 

Owned by the Marcil-Black family and run by William Marcil Jr., the Forum Communications Company has opened a port for unprecedented access to right-wing politicians such as Cramer to voice opinions and propaganda — unfiltered, unedited — through Say Anything Blog, which self advertises as “North Dakota’s Most Popular and Influential Political Blog.” 

It could be argued that, through its outlets, Forum Communications Company is passing on biased information funded by right wing advocacy groups with ties to the John Birch Society, listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “occasionally” anti-Semitic conspiracy-theorist “political third rail” once exiled from America’s political halls, but now slowly climbing back.

“Adding Rob was 100 percent business decision,” Marcil said. “We watched him grow his audience over the years and become successful. The fact that he is right leaning is a bonus. Our stable of columnists are not conservative.” Some of the Forum Communications Company’s columnists include Mike McFeely, Winona LaDuke, Jim Shaw, Joel Heitkamp, and Amy Klobuchar, Marcil said. 

“None of them are darlings of the Republican Party. In my position I find it interesting that when a person reads their paper they search out what they believe. Liberals like to tell themselves and me the the paper is conservative. The exact opposite for conservatives. Honestly, I would love to have some more conservative columnists.” 

Rob Port’s announcement that Rudie Martinson, board member of the Franklin Center, would be sitting in for his radio show on April 25, 2017 – Facebook

And as if Cramer’s sway with much of North Dakota’s press wasn’t enough, in early April Cramer sent letters to news broadcast companies with questions pertaining to bias. He focused on executives at NBC Universal, ABC, and CBS, arguing that the use of public broadcast resources justifies his interest in the issue, according to news reports. In November, 2016, Cramer announced intentions to call for hearings pertaining to media bias. 

A discussion held by the Northern Plains Ethics Institute was held late March to discuss “fake news” and journalism ethics. Among those included in the discussion were two WDAY anchors, Fargo Forum editors, Hennen, WDAY talk-show hosts, and North Dakota State University professors. 

The panel met at the NDSU Alumni Center to discuss issues including the polarization of the news media and its effects on “fake news” with little success, except to point out that there are dangers when readers are unable to separate fact from fiction. 

The Tides 

The left side of the political aisle is not blameless, and claims its own share of manipulating the news since the 1960s. Online news organizations such as ProPublica and Democracy Now! are openly liberal websites attracting readers who naturally agree with their points of view, just as some conservatives click toward websites such as the “alt-right” Breitbart. 

A difference between left and right is that organizations such as the Tides Foundation, established in 1976, and its “legal firewall” the Tides Center, aren’t as tight lipped about contributors, and have not been actively inserting like-minded journalists into mainstream media, instead, the organization invests in movies, supports activism, and in some cases issues donations to online media platforms.

The Donors Trust’s antithesis, the Tides Foundation, supported in part by billionaire George Soros, is listed as a charitable organization by the IRS, soliciting funds in excess of $405,017,500 since 2013. The Tides Foundation’s primary purpose is grant making and to “empower individuals and institutions to move money efficiently and effectively towards positive social change.” The organization also focuses on education, environment, civil rights, relief services, the environment, media, human rights, LGBT rights, and youth development, according to its 2014 IRS filings. 

Other issues the Tides Foundation rallies behind are gun control, abolition of the death penalty, and anti-war movements, and it is funded in part by the Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, according to its website. 

One controversy the Tides Foundation was involved with was its support of news or fact checker organizations, with a more than $4 million donation to Media Matters, and a $2 million donation to Wikipedia. Media Matters, launched in 2004, is a nonprofit research and information center “dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in U.S. media,” according to its website. It monitors print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets, and issues “rapid response” articles and alerts activists, journalists, and the public about misinformation. 

Another controversy is the Tides Foundation’s relationship with non-profit activist groups organized by billionaire George Soros, and the “Shadow Party,” which is comprised of hundreds of political committees to funnel “soft money” into Democratic Party endeavors. 

Right wing conservatives believe organization like the Tides Foundation are seeking to destroy the American way of life by moving the country’s constitutional foundation to a European-styled socialism. 

The Tides Foundation was registered in Bismarck on March 27, 2002 as a foreign nonprofit corporation, according to the Secretary of State North Dakota. Its principal office is in San Francisco, and its business scope is listed as grant making. 

The fix

One way to reverse the polarization in the media is to offer better salaries to reporters, Gawrylow said. 

“I don’t know how you reverse the partisan media situation, because you can’t do it with state funding because you’re a propaganda machine,” Gawrylow said. “Everything is ratings and sales oriented, but it’s not for the right reasons, not for the old “20/20” investigative journalism with the hidden camera.

“The only way you can get back to it is, number one, reporters have to make more money.” 

You get what you pay for, Gawrylow said, and North Dakota rarely retains its talented writers. Many television station personalities hold little more than internships, and in 2006, he applied for a $23,000  full time job as a political reporter, a sum, he said, which would not have been enough to keep him interested for long. 

“When people complain about the lazy journalists and liberal journalists with an agenda, they’re not paid enough to care,” Gawrylow said. “You don’t get quality, and if you’re only here for six months, you’re not making connections.”

Port never expected anyone to initially read his blog, he said. Now, as a political columnist for the Fargo Forum, he doesn’t see a problem with offering an information highway to North Dakota’s conservative politicians. 

“Maybe that’s because I’m a Republican and they see me as a friendly face. Fine. I don’t see what the problem is.” 

Social media, Port believes, is one of the main reasons for the widening gap between left and right in the press. Facebook algorithms allow the user to see what they want to see, not opposing ideologies. North Dakota Democrats have fallen for that snare, he said. 

“They’re all just talking to themselves,” Port said. “The only people they’re reaching are the people who already agree with them. They’re not changing anyone’s mind. Maybe if we had more voices like mine in the ‘traditional media’ it wouldn’t be an issue.” 

Hanson doesn’t read Say Anything Blog, because it’s heavily biased, he said. “I don’t think it’s accurate. I feel he has an axe to grind, and it’s not objective reporting so why waste my time with it.”

He also believes that social media is exacerbating the polarization of political reporting. 

“North Dakota is politically a very conservative state and not terribly receptive to new ideas or change,” Hanson said. “Look at the state legislature in Bismarck, and it’s pretty dark. If you don’t know the background, or the kinds of trails they’ve been traveling and the connections, you can easily get mislead.” 

City Commissioner’s Recall Petition Dies

By C.S. Hagen

FARGO – The recall petition of City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn fizzled out on Friday after two months of volunteers gathering signatures.

The recall ended because Pipekorn promised to obtain the list of all signatories on the “Scott Hennen Show” AM1100 “The Flag” on May 10, according to a recall committee press release.

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn – photo provided by City of Fargo

“So when they turn in the signatures for the Freedom of Information Act, I am going to request a copy of the signatures so we can  review them as well,” Piepkorn said on the “Scott Hennen Show.” He added that he was concerned the signatures were not legitimate.

Friday was the final day to handover the petition to the city auditor for certification. A minimum of 3,504 signatures was needed.

“Over the past two months our volunteers have worked ceaselessly to hold accountable a city commissioner who continues to abuse his power in the effort to denigrate and marginalize some of the city’s most vulnerable residents,” the recall committee said in a press release.

“Piepkorn’s actions are the actions of a bully and we will continue to work to ensure that no elected official, especially those installed with a minority of votes, uses their office to spread fear, foment distrust or divide our community.”

The recall process garnered support as well as criticism from around the city. Netizens both left and right of the political aisle took to posting their thoughts about the controversy, which stemmed from Piepkorn’s outburst during a City Commissioner’s meeting last October. Last year, Piepkorn’s scrutiny into unearthing the financial “burden” of specific minority groups brought into the area by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota sparked the anti-immigrant interest of Breitbart News, the “alt-right” online news forum formerly led by Steve Bannon, a coincidence Piepkorn denied he had anything to do with.

The recall effort stirred controversy between would-be allies as well, when the Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council, or FMRAC, issued a statement saying they were against the recall, and that recall volunteers had been threatened.

The recall committee stated at the time that volunteers had not been threatened. Fargo Police also received no reports of threats being made to recall volunteers.

“Even if they were over, the committee wouldn’t give him the chance,” a recall organizer Zac Echola said. “If anyone on the list mistakenly added their name or if they are simply unlucky enough to not be in an ICE database, they could be deported, even if they’re citizens. State Department and ICE don’t share data.”

Piepkorn plans to continue his line of questioning into schools and into West Fargo after he said he received information that the City of Fargo spends approximately $225,000 a year on refugees. Piepkorn also plans to ask police to begin documenting refugee status, according to his interview on the “Scott Hennen Show.” In addition, a legislative study committee will begin looking at Fargo and West Fargo city and school numbers that pertaining to refugee resettlement costs in January 2018, Piepkorn said.

Piepkorn has focused primarily on Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, the organization contracted by the state to manage the arrival of refugees and immigrants to North Dakota. The organization has handed over its 2014 990 nonprofit tax returns, and offered repeatedly to meet with Piepkorn to answer questions. Since the beginning, Piepkorn has refused.

A total of three reports on refugee costs have been handed over to the city since October 2016. The first report filed by the Fargo Human Relations Commission in April stated that statistics were difficult to obtain, but that refugees were good for the city having a cost-positive impact of $3,250 per individual. A second report filed on May 4 by the City of Fargo’s Finance Committee stated that the city has spent up to $750,000 on refugees since 2014, including the hiring of a cultural liaison officer, an interpreter, social service grants, and on the Human Relations Commission.

The third report was handed to Fargo City Commissioners last Monday by Fargo Cass Public Health, reaffirming that government agencies do not track refugees, but that the department did spend $60,100 in nursing costs on refugees in 2016.

A total of $3,895,096 went to refugee programs out of $11 million listed as federal government grants for the period up to June 30, 2016, with the City of Fargo directly contributing $500 for the Building Bridges conference, according to Shirley Dykshoorn, vice president of Senior and Humanitarian Services for Lutheran Social Services. One percent of the dollars expended by city health staff went toward refugees, she reported. “We provide dollars for those services under a contract with the Health Department,” she said.

Piepkorn’s statements pertaining to refugee costs have continuously been disproved.

“When I’m being attacked for asking where our tax money is going, that’s very concerning,” Piepkorn said. “This has upset a lot of citizens of Fargo.

He did not raise funds against the recall, but said he’s had offers of help from around the country.

“I will have people from around the country if I want to raise money that will help me, and I’ve had people offer to come to Fargo to help with the recall.”

Although the recall committee did not succeed in their efforts, they hope the recall petition has awakened people in Fargo to what they consider unfair treatment of New Americans.

“Our efforts began with little time to spare, but we did so in order to show folks that they need not be afraid, that they can stand up and participate in their democracy. Although we did not attain a recall, we have begun a vital conversation.”

Federal Loophole In Medical Marijuana Laws, Police Target Bismarck Stores

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK – Before the legal ink dried on North Dakota’s medical marijuana laws, Bismarck Police inspected two health food stores in the state’s capital city Thursday, looking for hemp derivatives.

Police targeted the stores selling products containing Cannabinol, or CBD hemp oil, a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC levels, and is known for its efficaciousness as an anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and antioxidant, among other uses.

CBD hemp oil is illegal in North Dakota and has been since 1903, Howard C. Anderson, the chief compliance officer for the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy, said. Despite what other media sources have reported, most people in the state were under the assumption that because CBD had a THC level less than 0.3, it fell under industrial hemp regulations and was permitted to be sold, Anderson said.

“That’s why they thought they could have a die-all with 0.3 percent or less,” Anderson said. “Now they’ve learned that’s not true.”

In December 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency specified CBD oil as a Schedule 1 drug, on the same level as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine.

“They didn’t really change anything, they just interpreted it to make it more clear,” Anderson said. “It’s always been an illegal substance.”

Terry’s Health Products – from Facebook page

Terry’s Health Products and BisMan Community Food Co-op were the stores targeted, according to Buschena. Both stores were mentioned in a television report pertaining to the recent rise in CBD product sales by MyNDNow on May 2.

“Of course if you are going to sell an illegal substance, you probably shouldn’t advertise it on TV,” Anderson said. “I understand they were selling it for a while, and that they thought it was okay.”

“We got a report from the attorney general’s office that there were maybe two business in Bismarck selling CBD products, Bismarck Police Sgt. Mark Buschena said. “This was not a raid. We sent officers to these businesses, identified themselves as police officers, bought the products from the shelf, and then they were sent for testing.”

The tests came back positive for CBD, negative for THC, Terry’s Health Products owner Lonna Zacher said. Her telephone has been ringing off the hook from concerned patrons; social media has “exploded” with indignation, she said.

“I am pulling it away from my shelves because I don’t want to spend 20 years in jail away from my daughter,” Zacher said. “Can’t see it. Hemp-based CBD oil, which is something I don’t even know if you drank 50 bottles of it if you would get high.

“It’s super disappointing.”

“Results from the products purchased by the officers came back today,” the Bismarck Police Department said in a press release. “One of two items purchased at Terry’s Health Products came back positive for Cannabinol.  All three items purchased at the Food Co-op came back positive for Cannabinol. Since being informed of the lab results both stores have willingly turned over all Cannabinol products to the Bismarck Police Department for disposal.”

No charges will be pursued at this time, Pat Renz, crime prevention and community services officer for the Bismarck Police Department, reported.

Public knowledge pertaining to the illegality of CBD hemp oil in North Dakota was lacking, as every online medical directory checked reported that CBD is legal to purchase and to use for adults in North Dakota.

Bushcena said news reports have blown the situation out of proportion, however, the U.S. News & World Report said in early May that a $1.1 trillion error in a spending bill approved by Congress could deprive North Dakotans with protections against federal anti-drug agents and prosecutors.

In other words, North Dakota was one of two states not included in a list denying federal government intervention with its medical marijuana programs.

Former United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota Timothy Purdon said the omission is a possible loophole the federal government could exploit.

Bis-Man Community Food Co-op – from Facebook page

“Other states have legalized medical cannabis laws and have legal protections under law,” Purdon said. He is currently a partner with Robins Kaplan LLP in Bismarck. “North Dakota doesn’t have that protection at this point, and that just creates more confusion. It’s an additional challenge for folks looking for medical cannabis to help ease the pain of their loved ones.”

North Dakota is one of 13 states that has commercial industrial hemp programs, according to legal directory KightLaw. Laws pertaining to hemp products are two-pronged whereas the state may have legalized medical marijuana or hemp products, but the federal government has not, and may actively hunt distributors or users.

Since 2014, federal spending bills have banned the Justice Department from going after state legal marijuana programs through a shield known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. The Obama Administration also issued the Cole Memo in 2013, which empowers states to regulate their own cannabis laws.

Recently, however, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declared that he wants to bring back the war on drugs — all drugs, which would mean he would pit himself and the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and other drug-enforcement agencies, against more than half of the nation.

“For unknown reasons, medical pot programs in North Dakota and Indiana were not listed as being off-limits to federal enforcement in the bill, which was negotiated by congressional leaders before being presented for floor votes,” the U.S. News & World Report said.

“As a matter of fact, medical cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and the US congress has given protection to some states, but it does appear to put this industry in a vulnerable position,” Purdon said.

“It doesn’t mean Department of Justice will take advantage of that, but we just don’t know.”

Senator John Hoeven R-ND, who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for including North Dakota on the federal list, said North Dakota was not included because medical marijuana will not become available for another 12 to 18 months. 

“The provision is included in the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) funding bill, which was drafted and approved by the CJS appropriations subcommittee in April 2016, prior to North Dakota’s approval of medical marijuana usage,” Hoeven said. 

“In the meantime, we will ensure the list is updated in the FY18 bill, so the state should be included before North Dakota’s program is up and running.” 

The North Dakota Health Bureau referred questions to Jack McDonald, attorney for North Dakota Newspaper Association & North Dakota Broadcaster’s Association, who said that CBD oil was on the menu as a replacement for marijuana during the latest legislative session. 

“For a long time it was one of the big issues of contention,” McDonald said. “It was only going to be that oil for a long time.”

In the future, people will be allowed to produce and sell CBD products, but they must be licensed, he said. “We will have to have strict regulations on how and where they do that. I have never heard before that it was legal.” 

“We watch these laws very close and if indeed this became a Schedule 1 drug we were completely unaware of it,” Zacher  said. “We have carried this product for 3 years without issue. Hundreds of reputable companies carry these products. Hemp based CBD oil is an amazing dietary supplement with an endless amount of health benefits.”

“If test results with no CBD in them, then it’s business as usual,” Bushcena said. “If they are, then we will notify the stores as such.”

If stores owners are convicted, the maximum penalty is up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $70,000, according to the North Dakota Century Code.

Zacher plans to fight to get CBD products legally back on her shelves, just as the original owner, Terry Hagen, fought federal regulations in the 1980s, she said. Law firms such as Hoban Law Group, who is representing the Hemp Industries Association, Centuria Natural Foods, RNH Holding LLC, reached out to Zacher telling her they are suing the Drug Enforcement Agency after it announced CBD as a marijuana-based drug instead of a hemp-based oil.

 

Showdown At City Commission Hall

Recall organizers face city commissioner after report on refugees, LSS reveals financials

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – 
As the two-hour-long Fargo City Commissioners meeting prepared to adjourn Monday, Erin Buzick, an organizer of the recall petition for City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, was given permission to speak. 

“Basically, I said that I understand that my inclusion in this community comes with a price tag to the city,” Buzick said. “However, I have never been reduced to a dollar sign. My intrinsic value has never been debated in the commission hall nor in the local media.”  She addressed Piepkorn on ongoing issues pertaining to refugee resettlement. 

“Commissioner Piepkorn, I know you’re fond of saying you’re not very smart,” Buzick said. “I respectfully disagree with you. I find it very difficult to believe that when you started this line of questioning that you didn’t understand the impact of your words.” 

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn – photo provided by City of Fargo

“If you want to look back and see the numbers we were told the original cost was $28,000 to the city, and now it’s turned out to be $220,000 a year,” Piepkorn said. “Those are specific for refugees. LSS [Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota] told us they were getting $800 per refugee, and it turns out last year they received $4 million dollars. So those are lies, aren’t they? Or are they truths?” 

Abdiwali Sharif, a former refugee, also spoke before the City Commission. 

“As a former refugee myself, and I hope I can relate to many other refugees who have made Fargo their home since World War II, I would like to know why the city is targeting refugees?” Sharif said. 

“While I understand Commissioner Piepkorn’s agenda to prevent more refugees being resettled in Fargo citing cost issues, everyone should know by now that he is not doing it for the right reasons. He is doing this to marginalize refugees, and I am shocked that the city and the mayor has not done anything to prevent such behavior that enables discrimination of thousands of its residents.” 

“I think I said a couple times that the costs are important, but that I hope the city is not going down the road of trying to quantify people,” Buzick said. “I hope that Fargo can recognize that people are people, and should be treated as such.”

Her statement was met with silence. Piepkorn had already moved to adjourn, but the motion was not seconded, which led into a few minutes of back and forth between Buzick and Piepkorn. 

Mayor Tim Mahoney ended the debate, and the recall petition has slightly more than a month to finish, according to State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. 

On May 5, Stenehjem replied in a letter to Fargo City Attorney Eric Johnson that all recall elections are valid if filed one year before end of term. Apparently, there was confusion about timing specifications within the North Dakota Century Code pertaining to the preceding year or one actual year – 365 days – for a recall to take place. 

Piepkorn’s term ends on June 12, 2018, so as long as the recall filing officer certifies the petition is valid prior to June 12, 2017, the recall election may occur, Stenehjem said. If the petition is not properly filed by June 12, then a recall election cannot occur, according to the North Dakota Century Code.

Minutes before the verbal tit-for-tat, the Fargo Cass Public Health turned in a report to Fargo City Commissioners stating that government agencies do not compile statistics based on refugees. 

The report, the third of its kind, reaffirmed that government agencies do not track refugees, according to Fargo Cass Public Health Director Ruth Roman. 

“But we don’t compile those kinds of statistics,” Roman said shortly before the meeting adjourned. Roman received a request for dollars spent on refugees, she told city commissioners, and approximately 35 to 40 percent of costs from nursing are reimbursed through the federal grants and through insurance.

Under a budget of $549,156 in 2016, Fargo Cass Public Health spent $51,647 on interpreters, $56,749 in 2015, and $47,188 in 2014, according to a report provided by the department.

Fargo Cass Public Health also completed a manual count by referral for the past year, which included 34 new families introduced by Lutheran Social Services from April 1, 2016 until March 31, 2017. The estimated costs for providing services for the 34 families is $5,950, Roman reported. 

The only refugee status Fargo Cass Public Health tracks is nursing, Roman reported, which oversaw 86 individuals in 2016 with a cost of $60,100, another 97 individuals in 2015 at a cost of $52,925, and 160 individuals in 2014 at a cost of $84,060, Roman reported.  

The first report filed by the Fargo Human Relations Commission in April stated that statistics were difficult to obtain, but that refugees were good for the city having a cost-positive impact of $3,250 per individual. A second report filed on May 4 by the City of Fargo’s Finance Committee stated that the city has spent up to $750,000 on refugees since 2014, including the hiring of a cultural liaison officer, an interpreter, social service grants, and on the Human Relations Commission. 

“I would encourage people to look at last October when I brought this point up initially, we were told some numbers that were not even close, they were way low,” Piepkorn said during the meeting. “They were obviously incorrect. The other question I have is ‘Why don’t people want us to know these numbers?’ To me, this is public tax money. When people say ’It’s not our business,’ it is our business. It’s public tax money that we’re spending.” 

City Commissioner John Strand – provided by City of Fargo

City Commissioner John Strand said that the report reflected the “tip of the iceberg” to better understanding the issues. “All of these services would be provided by the city anyway. So it’s hard to tell how many of our existing services like nursing care are for refugees, and then we don’t track refugees, which makes it even more complicated.” 

A legislative study committee will begin looking at Fargo and West Fargo city and school numbers that pertaining to refugee resettlement costs in January 2018, Piepkorn said. 

“The bigger thing that should be happening is that we should be reimbursed by the federal government,” Piepkorn said. “We don’t have anything to do with it. We don’t even know how many refugees are coming this year, and yet we’re having to pay. Eventually what’s going to happen is that we’re going to request the federal government to reimburse us and that’s how it should be.” 

Tensions surrounding refugee resettlement in Fargo and have created strife, ripped allies apart, since Pipekorn’s outburst during a City Commissioner’s meeting last October. Last year, Piepkorn’s scrutiny into unearthing the financial “burden” of specific minority groups brought into the area by Lutheran Social Services sparked the anti-immigrant interest of Breitbart News, the “alt-right” online news forum formerly led by Steve Bannon, a coincidence Piepkorn denied he had anything to do with. 

Lutheran Social Services is the organization contracted by the state to manage the arrival of refugees and immigrants to North Dakota. The organization provides resettlement services in Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and in Moorhead, Minnesota, according to Lutheran Social Services’ 2014 990 tax filing. 

The organization’s New Americans Services program provided services to 436 new refugee arrivals, 149 secondary migrants, 10 people seeks asylum, two parolees, and 14 unaccompanied refugee minors in 2014, according to tax filings. Of that number, 321 found employment in 2015 through Lutheran Social Services assistance. In 2014, immigration specialists assisted 1,267 individuals with green cards, and provided 19,570 days of care to refugee children who had no parents. 

A total of $3,895,096 went to refugee programs out of $11 million listed as federal government grants for the period up to June 30, 2016, with the City of Fargo directly contributing $500 for the Building Bridges conference, according to Shirley Dykshoorn, vice president of Senior and Humanitarian Services for Lutheran Social Services. One percent of the dollars expended by city health staff went toward refugees, she reported. “We provide dollars for those services under a contract with the Health Department,” she said. 

Lutheran Social Services not only resettles refugees to a state that until recently has remained homogeneously white since its inception in 1889, but helps New Americans find jobs, with emergency cash services, startup food, and other core services. In 2017 alone, the organization has also provided $282,395 worth of awards to units of local government including the Fargo Adult Learning Center, Fargo Board of Education, the Somali Community Development of North Dakota, the New American Consortium, and the Family Healthcare Center. 

“There have been a lot of people feeling they are targeted, by the request of having a whole group of legal immigrants studied,” Dykshoorn said. “You could argue that there are other people in the community that have costs associated with them.”

For instance, college students, Dykshoorn said. Have college students affected increased police numbers? 

“They are legal residents of the community, it’s sort of a carry over from elections and immigration issues that have been put forth,” Dykshoorn said. “That’s the other part of the discussion; it’s difficult to segregate data. As a person who has a legal right in this country you are allowed to move where you choose.

“You can’t look at it with a narrow lens.” 

Her organization has repeatedly requested sit-downs with Piepkorn. So far, he has refused. All information Piepkorn is requesting is through the City of Fargo, which is then sent back to the city and then to Piepkorn, Dykshoorn said. 

Not only has Piepkorn not visited Lutheran Social Services, he is not believing the facts that are being given him, Dykshoorn said. 

Piepkorn has stated that Lutheran Social Services CEO Jessica Thomasson makes $350,000 per year, which is incorrect, Dykshoorn stated. Thomasson’s annual salary is approximately $143,000. Additionally, statements have been made that the organization spent $15 million on a new Fargo office building in 2015, on land purchased in 2008, but the facility actually ran a cost of $5 million paid for with donations, cheaper than renting. Lutheran Social Services conducted a nearly six-year capital campaign before the building was built, Dykshoorn stated. 

“He’s requesting through his city channels, and thinks there are a lot of other costs to city government. In some respects he’s requested the information from the right source, but he doesn’t believe what has been provided to him.” 

Lutheran Social Services is monitored several times every year by the federal government and by contracted voluntary agencies, Dykshoorn said. 

“If they thought we were doing something inappropriate they would be right on us,” Dykshoorn said. “We are regularly under the microscope for the services that are provided. We will try to provide the education and clarity to him [Piepkorn] that he is requesting.” 

Comparing Piepkorn’s inquest into refugee resettlement as fear mongering, the recall petition of Piepkorn began in March, and division was recently incited between recall organizers and the Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council, or FMRAC. Council members stated that recall organizers had been harassed and threatened while on their routes; recall organizers said they had not heard of any reports of threats. Fargo Police said no incidents of threats or harassment have been reported. 

“We have a simple message,” FMRAC responded to an email and directed to Piepkorn. “Please do not spread false rumors. Refugees have already suffered enough, and they don’t deserve to be targeted the way they are right now.” 

On April 30, FMRAC directors invited Piepkorn to an honorary membership on the council. So far, Piepkorn has not accepted. The invitation came days after hate fliers were pinned to telephone poles in downtown Fargo. The fliers were reportedly sponsored by “alt-right” and hate groups such as VDare, Occidental Observer, American Renaissance, Counter-Currents, Redice-TV, and the Flyovers. 

Pinning advertisements on public or private property without consent is illegal, according to the North Dakota Century Code. Fargo Police Public Information Officer Joseph Anderson reported no one involved with disseminating the hate fliers had been arrested yet. 

The recall committee has until this Friday to finish the petition, as the city needs up to 30 days to have the petition certified. 

FMRAC Steps Up, Defines Its Stance 

While racist propaganda circulates Fargo, and a city leader targets refugees, divisions among refugee and activist organizations threaten to undo cooperation efforts

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– The Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council clarified recent actions Tuesday by doubling down on its stance against the recall effort of a Fargo city commissioner primarily due to threats, but not without admonishment. 

“We have a simple message,” the Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council, or FMRAC, said in a response to an email and directed to City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn. “Please do not spread false rumors. Refugees have already suffered enough, and they don’t deserve to be targeted the way they are right now.” 

On Sunday, FMRAC directors invited Piepkorn to an honorary membership on the council. So far, Piepkorn has not accepted. Fauzia Haider, a former FMRAC member, resigned from FMRAC last week stating decisions were being made “behind the scenes.” 

While rumors swirled and fingers pointed in directions few knew how to follow after FMRAC advocated an immediate end to Piepkorn’s recall efforts, FMRAC did admit the controversy created a division within the council. 

The recall committee remains committed to its efforts to recall Piepkorn, organizer Erin Buzick said. 

“One of our former officers was conflicted, and decided to support the recall effort publicly, while many others expressed the support only in an individual capacity,” FMRAC said. Currently, FMRAC has no official council spokesperson, but plans electing one on Sunday, Hukun Abdullahi, a member, said. 

“The council understood the need for people who wanted to do this, but at the same time understood the repercussions this could have in the future. This is our city after all. The council did not want to escalate the cost-issues, which is enabling the commissioner to go after the refugees in the first place.” 

NDSU professor Denise Lajimodiere and Zeinab Egueh, speaking after a meeting on hate issues this past weekend – photo by C.S. Hagen

Piepkorn took aim last year at Lutheran Social Services during City Commissioner meetings, saying he wanted an investigation into how much money LSS was spending on resettlement programs, how much immigrants are costing the city, and if New Americans are related to increased crime rates.  Last October, reporters from Breitbart News, the “alt-right” online news forum formerly led by Steve Bannon, showed up at the meeting, a coincidence Piepkorn denied he had anything to do with. 

Lutheran Social Services is the organization contracted by the state to manage the arrival of refugees and immigrants to North Dakota.

After a six-month study, the Fargo Human Relations Commission released a report declaring that although financial statistics focused on a particular class or race of people were at best difficult to obtain, refugees and immigrants were good for Fargo.

FMRAC further stressed that recall volunteer safety issues are the council’s most pressing concern. 

“As mentioned in the press release, the safety of the community and community members outweighs any issues that are on the table,” FMRAC said. “We were informed about the incidents that were happening during the signature collection process, and in order to prevent any kind of escalation of violence, we decided to take this decision collectively as the council. 

“Fight pushes people away, and puts people in precarious situations to defend rather than negotiate. Ironically, many refugees who are here do understand the consequences of picking up fight especially with their own government. The current political climate and other barriers do not give our refugees a whole lot of wiggle-room to speak up.” 

FMRAC was not aware of any incidents that were reported to police.

Recall committee volunteer Zach Echola said volunteers go out in pairs, and he knows of no instances where they have been threatened. Buzick reported that recall volunteers and organizers have experienced threats by those that should be allies, and discussed one case where a volunteer was met by someone who said they didn’t like foreigners. 

On Monday, April 24, the 27th day of Nisan of the Hebrew calendar, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, racist, Trump-supporting posters were pinned to telephone poles in downtown Fargo. The posters went up shortly after the Fargo Human Relations Commission announced findings of a six-month study that showed refugees and immigrants in Fargo are good for the city. Fargo Police do not have any suspects in custody at this time. 

FMRAC’s initial announcement to end the recall efforts came days after the posters were discovered. 

“We were late in the game to know about the incidents, to be honest,” FMRAC said. “Had we known about this earlier, we would have taken this step calling to end the petition much sooner. It’s our understanding that volunteers were made aware of the resistance they would face, but the remarks from some specific households were truly discriminatory and threatening.

“Even a simple message such as ‘Go back to your own country,’ can be very hurtful and the council understands that.”

FMRAC further reported it is “disheartened that it has lost some of its dedicated allies,” but plans to reunify ethnic communities and the upcoming elections may bring also about some change. 

“Even the commissioner’s great-grandfather left Poland to seek better futures for his children,” FMRAC said. “If you are concerned about the costs, please understand that the initial cost to help us find a job or to learn English is nowhere comparable to the cost of engaging in a warfare with another country, which ends up creating more refugees. 

“Please advocate against wars instead of refugees. The council believes the taxes generated from refugees via employment, property ownership, and entrepreneurship not only replenishes those initial costs, but helps achieve economic stability for years to come.” 

Former City Commissioner Mike Williams said Piepkorn has no credible basis for his statements, which included CEO of Lutheran Social Services Jessica Thompson’s inflated salary, tripling the amount of funds spent on a new “Taj Mahal” building, and blaming LSS for being behind the recall effort. In the past, Williams said he has buried Piepkorn with facts, to prove points.

“I’ve been involved with New Americans for quite a few years now,” Williams said. “I understand we are better together, a stronger community with diversity.”

He disagrees with the recall effort and told the recall committee as much over the weekend when he said they challenged him.

“I was just stunned,” Williams said. “It’s well documented that I’ve been an ally of New Americans. I went on to say that our goal here is to get the facts out, and I don’t see how the recall will help with that.”

Buzick said she challenged Williams on issues. “He pushed very, very hard for us to drop the effort,” Buzick said. “I was not able to get to the end of my inquiry before he cut me off and started screaming.  His tirade was so intense, that one member left the room to compose themselves.  He then basically wrapped it up telling us we were naive idiots.”

Williams, who said he is an activist who happened to get elected, said the recall committee is filled with good people with good intentions, but the dissension is hurting their cause.

“It’s their prerogative, and if they want to do that that’s fine. I didn’t threaten them and I didn’t call them naive. It’s important we keep it together, they’re laughing at us when they see dissent.”

The study released in March entitled Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report, agreed that refugees and immigrants are good for Fargo.

A first generation immigrant is cost positive in North Dakota by approximately $3,250, and long term benefits are incalculable, according to the report. 

Additionally, New Americans, or refugees and immigrants, make up approximately three percent of North Dakota’s population, according to the American Immigration Council. They are employers, taxpayers, and workers in fields few local citizens are willing to go, according to the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report. Foreign-born residents contributed $542.8 million to Fargo’s GDP in 2014, and have a spending power of $149.4 million, the report states. 

Recall Will Go On

Amidst hate fliers, agendas aimed at city refugees and immigrants, concerned citizens prepare to fight racism

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– Despite an announcement by the Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council, the recall petition of City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn will go on. 

“Everyone on the recall committee agreed to continue,” Erin Buzick, an organizer for the recall committee, said. “After discussing the release from FMRAC with dozens of refugee and immigrant leaders we heard only one message. The press release was not agreed upon or discussed as a group.  There were maybe a handful of FMRAC officers told about the letter and it was agreed upon last week that it would not go out.”

On Thursday, FMRAC issued a press release advocating the immediate end to Piepkorn’s recall.

“In light of the potential recall election of City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, FM Refugee Advisory Council (FMRAC) recommends the recall committee end its recall efforts effective immediately. The decision to reach this conclusion has been made after meeting with ethnic leaders and other ethnic community members affiliated with FMRAC.”

FMRAC has remained neutral on Piepkorn’s recall issue, but stepped up last week reporting that volunteers involved with the recall have recently been threatened. 

“Some of the volunteer ethnic members who have gone door-to-door collecting signatures, have been threatened and treated with profanity,” FMRAC’s press release stated. “This has resulted in the council to take a stand against this recall effort, solely, to protect individuals, and due to violence it may incite which might result in creating unsafe communities for refugees and their families.”

The FMRAC announcement spurred former member Fauzia Haider to resign.

“Just wanted to let everyone know that that I am no longer associated with FMRAC,” Haider said in a statement. “I have my own reasons, lack of communication and lack of trust is one of the major ones. People make decisions behind the scenes and I have no way of knowing who is doing what. Decisions are made on ad hoc basis on the spur of the moment, and I can’t work in that environment.”

Angel Lira of the FM Gay Men’s Chorus speaking – photo by C.S. Hagen

Issues pertaining to violence and the potential for violence were discussed Saturday at the Red Raven Espresso Bar when the North Dakota Human Rights Commission and the Moorhead Human Rights Commission organized a meeting attracting more than 30 concerned citizens, professors, and community leaders. The meeting was organized shortly after hate posters targeting the “parasite class” appeared on telephone poles throughout the downtown area. 

The fliers prompted Mayor Tim Mahoney to condemn the person or persons responsible. 

“North Dakota has the highest per capita hate crime rate in the nation, second only to Massachusetts,” Barry Nelson, of the North Dakota Human Rights Commission, said. Minnesota has hate crime laws; North Dakota does not, he said. 

“Hate crime is a very difficult thing because you have to get inside the mind of the person who committed the act,” Fargo Police Cultural Liaison Officer Vince Kempf said. He searched through the websites allegedly involved behind the fliers and found nothing that raised criminal red flags, he said. 

“Where does the hate come from?” Paul Jensen, a commissioner for the Human Relations Commission, said. “How can we understand each other better? Both cultures must try to find middle ground.” He asked about host families attached with Lutheran Social Services, the organization contracted by the state to manage the arrival of refugees and immigrants to North Dakota. 

The recall began after Piepkorn’s aimed speculations at Lutheran Social Services during City Commissioner meetings. His job, Piepkorn said, is to determine how much money LSS is spending on resettlement programs, how much immigrants are costing the city, and if New Americans are related to increased crime rates.  Last October, reporters from Breitbart News, the “alt-right” online news forum formerly led by Steve Bannon, showed up at the meeting, a coincidence Piepkorn denied he had anything to do with. 

After a six-month study, the Fargo Human Relations Commission released a report earlier in March declaring that although financial statistics focused on a particular class or race of people were at best difficult to obtain, refugees and immigrants were good for Fargo.

Tax records show that LSS received more than $11 million in federal grants in 2015, of which $3.9 million was allocated to refugee resettlement. Additionally, LSS received $500 from the City of Fargo to support an annual conference. 

Foreign-born residents contributed $542.8 million to the city’s GDP in 2014, and have a spending power of $149.4 million, the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report announced. Police stated that although crime reports do not include immigration statuses, crime rates are not directly affected by immigrants and refugees. 

North Dakota’s resettlement program began in 1946 when the Lutheran Welfare Society, now known as Lutheran Social Services, began admitting Protestants fleeing Nazi Germany. 

“Quite frankly, people are scared,” Zeinab Egueh, from Djibouti, said. Recent hate speech included in the fliers has refugees worried not only for their own safety, but that the issue may be swept under the rug and forgotten. 

“We’re here to create jobs, we are trying to make the country great,” Egueh said. “We came from far worse and we can do better.” 

“I want to mix cultures, I want to diversify myself,” Samuel Frazer, from West Africa, said. “Yes, I am an African, yes, I have an accent, but I can read and write.” 

“In Minnesota, immigrants are an asset; in North Dakota immigrants are a burden,” Hukun Abdullahi, of the non-profit  Afro-American Development Association, said. 

Denise Lajimodiere, an assistant professor at North Dakota State University who plans to retire soon said that prejudice against Native Americans in Fargo is one of the reasons she is leaving.

“It’s killing my spirit to work here,” she said. “It has not been a good experience for my family here and I don’t know what the solution is. It’s been pretty distressing.” 

NDSU professor Denise Lajimodiere speaking, Fargo Police Cultural Liaison Officer Vince Kempf in background – photo by C.S. Hagen

A friend once took her to railroad tracks in Moorhead, informing her that the city had at one time been a Sundown Town, a city where all non-whites had to leave at the sound of a bell at sundown. Her parents went through “absolute hell” through boarding schools, and she testified to as much before the United Nations. 

“There is still settler colonization here in North Dakota. We need to decolonize ourselves.”  

Zac Echola, a volunteer for the recall petition, said he became involved to give voice to those who are constantly marginalized. Volunteers go out seeking signatures in pairs, and he knows of no cases where threats have been involved. 

“Direct action is a hard and necessary approach,” Echola said. “The sort of things FMRAC brought up in their letter would sadly continue regardless of any recall. A recall is a direct action that acts as a check against all of that nonsense. It forcefully says ‘we will not allow you to control this issue.’ Of course that causes tension even among friends. It’s unfortunate that opposition to the recall action have chosen to stoke that fear instead of standing in solidarity.”

Buzick said volunteers of the recall petition have experienced intimidation tactics by those they consider allies, adding that on one occasion a Fargo resident told a volunteer that they didn’t like foreigners. The petition is struggling toward filling half of the required signatures needed, Buzick said. 

“Every time we gain momentum,  there has been another white guy that writes about how we are hurting refugees and immigrants,” Buzick said. “However, they all seem to have forgotten to ask people that worship at the masjid, that wear a hijab, or that were not born here what they think.”

The only time Buzick has felt threatened was when a former city official yelled at her, she said. Buzick was cut off while questioning a former city commissioner, who stated he was against the recall effort.

Concerned citizens – photo by C.S. Hagen

“He pushed very, very hard for us to drop the effort,” Buzick said. “I was not able to get to the end of my inquiry before he cut me off and started screaming.  His tirade was so intense, that one member left the room to compose themselves.  He then basically wrapped it up telling us we were naive idiots.”

Attempts to contact the former city official were unsuccessful. 

Despite the controversy the recall has created, the petition is necessary, Buzick said. 

“It is important because of the very real and very enormous effort being led to stop us. This recall effort has revealed the cowardice of the ‘white moderate’ Martin Luther King wrote about decades ago.  If we stop now, then we allow intimidation and underhanded tactics to win.  

“This is a long game and we are not about to blink.”

The North Dakota Human Rights Commission and the Moorhead Human Rights Commission plan to hold more meetings in the future to discuss methods for better community integration. In the meantime, Nelson said, smile and welcome New Americans. Knowledgable white people also need to step up and begin educating fellow white people not on “white guilt” but on mutual understanding. 

 

White Power Seeking Limelight

Alt White: The Siege of North Dakota. Part five continued – series on racism in North Dakota. The state is no stranger to hate groups seeking attention, and while Pioneer Little Europe and the Creativity Movement form hit lists of North Dakota small towns, a new white supremacist group surfaces in Fargo. 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– North Dakota has a history of giving birth to Nazis and white supremacists seeking the spotlight. 

Michael Lynn Hansen, would be 63 or 64 years old today – photo from Skyjacker of the Day

June, 1975, Fargo native Michael Lynn Hansen first hijacked a Western Airlines flight in protest of the Vietnam War and in the name of defying American imperialism, threatened to kill President Nixon, according to the Chicago Tribune. After demanding at gunpoint for the pilot to fly to North Vietnam, the plane landed in Cuba, where Hansen spent three years in prison, kickstarting his Nazi indoctrination, Hansen said in an interview with Eguene Register-Guard, an Oregon newspaper. 

Cuban officials released Hansen into US custody, and he was sentenced to ten more years imprisonment stateside. After his release, Hansen planned to unite hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan and Posse Comitatus to start a right-wing newspaper. He founded the Christian Nationalist Socialist White People’s Liberation Army in 1981 declaring at that time that a “white revolution” was brewing across the country, a term that is reminiscent with the Creativity Movement’s belief that RaHoWa, or Racial Holy War, is eminent. 

Hansen later produced the “White Power Hour” in Fargo, carried by Post-Newsweek-owned Cablecomm Fargo, and maintained an audience of about 23,000 subscribers, according to The Free Library. He wore a National Socialist uniform and framed himself before a Third Reich battle flag, taping the show in his living room. Hansen planned to spread his white Aryan views through public access cable in Salt Lake City.

Gordon Wendell Kahl FBI Wanted Poster

In 1983, Wells County native Gordon Wendell Kahl, aka Sam Louden, leader of the militant group Posse Comitatus, an early anti-Semitic, white supremacist organization refusing to pay taxes, gathered local support. Kahl shot and killed two federal marshals at a roadblock outside of Medina, North Dakota, then led federal investigators on a four-month-long manhunt, which ended with the death of a sheriff and Kahl’s own life in Arkansas. 

Kahl’s defiance of the law prompted the 1991 movie In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas, a documentary entitled Death & Taxes, and was included in the novel Downtown Owl: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman. 

More recently, Craig Cobb, born in Missouri, has attempted to takeover small towns in North Dakota, including Leith and Antler. A church Cobb purchased in Nome burned down on March 22. Deputy State Fire Marshal Ken Sisk said in a report the case is being investigated as arson as the structure had no electrical service, no source of heating, and was secured with new locks. 

Craig Cobb – photo from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Cobb has publicly declared ties to the Pioneer Little Europe movement, which consists of Nazis, neo-Nazis, Creativity Movement members, and other hate groups attempting takeovers of at least 12 dying towns in North Dakota. 

In January, Creativity Movement reverend, or “creator,” Nick Chappell, announced that plans were being made for the Fargo/Moorhead area. The group, which Chappell calls a religion, prefers a silent approach to recruit members. 

Once a rising star in the American Nazi party, Chappell left the Nationalist Socialist Movement as director of the Viking Youth Corps during a “Soviet-style purge of its ranks,” according to Nationalist Socialist Files. When he left the Nazi Party, Chappell was ranked high on a confidential Nazi blacklist and labelled by American Nazi Party Commander Jeff Schoep as an “oath breaker” and “race-traitor.” 

“We don’t believe in rallies due to they create a mob atmosphere and people don’t listen they just do what the mob wants when it’s worked up in a frenzy,” Chappell, who calls himself a racial loyalist, said. “You get far more accomplished one on one and in smaller meetings.”

Jamie Kelso – photo from the Southern Poverty Law Center

In Grand Forks, Jamie Kelso, director and membership coordinator for the American Freedom Party – formerly known as the American Third Position, a political party initially established by skinheads, is a well-known figure with political ambitions.

Kelso is a bullhorn for white supremacy ideals, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit hate crime watchdog. He claims he is not a racist, but a “red-blooded American,” and he hosts “The Jamie Kelso Show” for the American Freedom Party. He was once the personal assistant for Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and served as a moderator for hate-web guru Don Black’s forum Stormfront, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Militant and racist groups have hibernated quietly in North Dakota since the 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan grew bold enough to take out advertisements in the Fargo Forum. The Peace Garden State has remained predominantly white since becoming a state in 1889. The US Census Bureau reported in 2016 that North Dakota is 88.6 percent white, with 2.4 percent of the 757,952 population being of African descent, 5.5 percent of Native American, and one percent from Asian origins. 

Another Fargoan sought his 15 minutes of fame earlier this year and this week after hate posters were spread throughout the downtown area. Although nonprofit hate group watchdog Unity-USA is investigating the culprits, netizens, family members, and friends know who the individual was. 

Pete Tefft aka Chad

Chad Radkersburg, which is an online Facebook alias for Pete Tefft, according to family, sent out an advertisement for the First Annual FEHU BBQ at Lindenwood Park on Saturday. FEHU is a Futhark rune representing a new beginning. Tefft also goes by another name, Otto Van Tism’ark, according to friends who wish to remain anonymous and an announcement made by JoAnna Braun, Tefft’s niece.. Tefft was denounced by self-proclaimed Nazi hunter Luke Safely as a Nazi in February. 

“I am not posting this because I am spiteful or because I don’t think it’s okay for people to have different views,” Braun said. “I am posting this status because I believe my uncle is dangerous, and I believe more people probably agree with me. His group of “pro-white” locals only has a small number of members to my knowledge, but hate grows quick. 

“Luckily, love grows quicker.” 

“It seems likely that the use of FEHU in this case means the start of a new supremacist group in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” Unity-USA reported. 

Reportedly twelve people attended the First Annual FEHU BBQ, according to netizens. Radkersburg, or Tefft, was contacted for comment, but did not respond. Posting such advertisements on private or public property is illegal, according to the Fargo Municipal Code. 

The FEHU rune

“No person shall, without first obtaining the consent of the owner or proprietor, post handbills, placards, or posters, or make, print, or mark any word, letter, or advertisement of any kind upon any private house, store or other building, or upon any fence, railing, wall, vehicle, or other property; nor shall any person make, print, post or mark any word, character or advertisement upon any public building, bridge, fence, railing, sidewalk, utility pole, vehicle or other public or private property within the city. ”

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney issued a statement condemning the fliers late Thursday afternoon. 

“This behavior does not advance our mission to preserve the values of diversity and inclusion that help make Fargo stronger,” Mahoney said. “We must commit ourselves to resisting hate, violence, and other practices. To do this, we need to act as a united metro area with the involvement of our civic organization, law enforcement agencies, and community members.

“As your mayor, I have been and always will be proud to promote Fargo as a community that is welcoming and embracing of all people. The Fargo I know is a city that celebrates and promotes diversity, all while preserving and respecting the safety and dignity of our citizens. As parents, we should remember that our children learn directly from us. These young people are the future. Divisive actions, even the isolated incidents like those seen this week, have the potential to alter what the Fargo of tomorrow will ultimately be.” 

Fargo resident Ruth Anna Buffalo, a member of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, said she visited Mahoney earlier Thursday afternoon. The racist fliers disturbed her, and the incident is an issue that cannot be overlooked, no matter who the disseminator is, she said.

“My whole point in meeting with the mayor was to see if he could put out a statement saying it’s wrong,” Buffalo said. “How best do you combat something like this? With the Trump wave as it is, it has the potential to embolden a whole group of people.” 

The anti Semitic and racist posters went up in time for the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, Monday, April 24, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The posters began being pinned to telephone poles less than a week after the Fargo Human Relations Commission announced findings of a six-month study that showed refugees and immigrants in Fargo are good for the city. 

Published announcement by Chad Radkersburg, on same day Pete Tefft was published on his views pertaining to the Women’s March -Twitter

One of the posters signed by “The Flyovers” depicted the communist hammer and sickle, the Jewish star, a syringe, and a marijuana leaf as rain falling on a family under an umbrella emblazoned with a sign reminiscent of a swastika. Another poster featured a man wielding a sword on a horse in a battle scene. 

“This country is your birthright,” the poster said. “Don’t give it up.” 

A third poster found near the Downtown Fargo Fire Department, said “Trump was the first step. We’re the Next,” and supported by VDare, Counter-Currents, American Renaissance, The Right Stuff, Redice.TV, and The Occidental Observer, all of whom are listed as nationalistic and racial purist hate organizations. 

Pete Tefft’s editorial to the Fargo Forum January 30, 2017

A fourth flier posted by AltRight.com in Roberts Street alley said, “White people have a right to exist.” 

A fifth flier listing Bible verse John 2:13 pictures a whip and tells “Real Christians, drive out the parasite class.” 

The Flyovers poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

Christopher A. Smith frequently walks through Downtown, and discovered some of the posters over the weekend and on Monday evening. 

“I thought, when I saw the posters, that it was interesting timing with the upcoming Black Lives Matter Banquet at Minnesota State University Moorhead and the Holocaust Remembrance,” Smith said. 

“My first impulse was to rip them down, but then I thought it would be better to document the signs and share them on social media to perhaps bring up awareness that such things are in the area.” 

Unity-USA, a nonprofit local hate watch group, alerted netizens early Tuesday morning. 

Trump poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

“According to sources, several fliers have been posted by an unknown hate group in selected locations in downtown Fargo,” Unity-USA reported. While it is unknown which group is directly responsible, Unity-USA is conducting research and trying to track down suspected groups/group members.” 

VDare was established in 1999 as a nonprofit by the Center for American Unity in Virginia, and is “dedicated to preserving our historical unity as Americans into the 21st Century,” according to its website. 

American Renaissance was founded in 1990 and promotes pseudo-scientific studies and research to show minorities in language that avoids open racial slurs, according to Unity-USA. It is best known for its American Renaissance magazine and website, which regularly feature eugenics and racist articles. 

The Right Stuff blog is a racist outlet hosting podcasts including The Daily Shoah, and popularizes the use of “echoes,” or Anti Semitic markers using triple parenthesis around names to identify people of the Jewish faith on social media, according to Unity-USA. 

Counter-Currents is a website popular among “hipster racists,” according to Unity-USA, and pushes fake news and memes that are considered popular to young adults. 

Birthright poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

The Occidental Observer is a far-right online publication that covers politics and society from a nationalistic and Anti Semitic perspective, according to Unity-USA. 

Redice.TV is an online hate video service with a formal media infrastructure, Unity-USA reported. 

Parasite poster – photo by Christopher A. Smith

The Flyovers is a term designating “Red States” that voted for President Trump. “It is unclear if this is the term they are using to designate this particular group, but it seems that this might be the case,” Unity-USA reported. 

Family members who wish to remain anonymous are trying to help Tefft, but the timing of the posters and Nazi accusations coincide with agendas announced by racist hate groups for the Fargo/Moorhead area, leaving investigators and residents questioning if the posters were coincidence or part of a grander scheme.  The tone of the fliers distributed in downtown Fargo are similar to a leaflet found at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead approximately 10 years ago.

Nazi leaflet found at the Hjemkomst Center

White Supremacist Fliers Hit Fargo Streets

Alt White: The Siege of North Dakota. Part five in the series on racism in North Dakota. While Pioneer Little Europe and the Creativity Movement form hit lists of North Dakota small towns, a new white supremacist group surfaces in Fargo. 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– Three days after white supremacists advertised for a like-minded gathering at Lindenwood Park, posters depicting hate speech were posted on telephone poles along downtown back alleys.

FEHU BBQ Ad – online sources

The posters went up in time for the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, Monday, April 24, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The posters also went up shortly after the Fargo Human Relations Commission announced findings of a six-month study that showed refugees and immigrants in Fargo are good for the city. 

One of the posters signed by “The Flyovers” depicted the communist hammer and sickle, the Jewish star, a syringe, and a marijuana leaf as rain falling on a family under an umbrella emblazoned with a sign reminiscent of a swastika. Another poster featured a man wielding a sword on a horse in a battle scene. 

“This country is your birthright,” the poster said. “Don’t give it up.” 

A third poster found near the Downtown Fargo Fire Department, said “Trump was the first step. We’re the Next,” and supported by VDare, Counter-Currents, American Renaissance, The Right Stuff, Redice.TV, and The Occidental Observer, all of whom are listed as nationalistic and racial purist hate organizations. 

A fourth flier posted by AltRight.com in Roberts Street alley said, “White people have a right to exist.” 

White right poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

A fifth flier listing Bible verse John 2:13 pictures a whip and tells “Real Christians, drive out the parasite class.” 

Parasite poster – photo by Christopher A. Smith

Christopher A. Smith frequently walks through Downtown, and discovered some of the posters over the weekend and on Monday evening. 

“I thought, when I saw the posters, that it was interesting timing with the upcoming Black Lives Matter Banquet at Minnesota State University Moorhead and the Holocaust Remembrance,” Smith said. 

“My first impulse was to rip them down, but then I thought it would be better to document the signs and share them on social media to perhaps bring up awareness that such things are in the area.” 

Birthright poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

Unity-USA, a nonprofit local hate watch group, alerted netizens early Tuesday morning. 

“According to sources, several fliers have been posted by an unknown hate group in selected locations in downtown Fargo,” Unity-USA reported. While it is unknown which group is directly responsible, Unity-USA is conducting research and trying to track down suspected groups/group members.” 

VDare was established in 1999 as a nonprofit by the Center for American Unity in Virginia, and is “dedicated to preserving our historical unity as Americans into the 21st Century,” according to its website. 

Trump poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

American Renaissance was founded in 1990 and promotes pseudo-scientific studies and research to show minorities in language that avoids open racial slurs, according to Unity-USA. It is best known for its American Renaissance magazine and website, which regularly feature eugenics and racist articles. 

The Right Stuff blog is a racist outlet hosting podcasts including The Daily Shoah, and popularizes the use of “echoes,” or Anti Semitic markers using triple parenthesis around names to identify people of the Jewish faith on social media, according to Unity-USA. 

Counter-Currents is a website popular among “hipster racists,” according to Unity-USA, and pushes fake news and memes that are considered popular to young adults. 

The Occidental Observer is a far-right online publication that covers politics and society from a nationalistic and Anti Semitic perspective, according to Unity-USA. 

Redice.TV is an online hate video service with a formal media infrastructure, Unity-USA reported. 

The Flyovers is a term designating “Red States” that voted for President Trump. “It is unclear if this is the term they are using to designate this particular group, but it seems that this might be the case,” Unity-USA reported. 

The First Annual FEHU BBQ was hosted by a person identifying himself as Chad Radkersburg at Lindenwood Park on Saturday. FEHU is a Futhark rune representing a new beginning. 

“It seems likely that the use of FEHU in this case means the start of a new supremacist group in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” Unity-USA reported. 

Reportedly twelve people attended the First Annual FEHU BBQ, according to netizens. Radkersburg was contacted for comment, but did not respond.

North Dakota’s Marijuana Gets The Puff-Puff Pass

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – A hesitant round of applause rippled across the Peace Garden State Tuesday when the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act became law. 

Governor Doug Burgum, voted the nation’s third most popular governor by the Morning Consult Governor Approval rankings, signed Senate Bill 2344 on Monday, making medical marijuana legal – to an extent – in North Dakota. The law began as an initiated measure and was passed by all state voting districts in 2016. 

The road to becoming law was bumpy, as it was postponed, and then immediately drafted into self-defeating Senate Bill 2154 after the legislative body received pressure from advocates and the media saying government was dragging its feet. The new bill, SB 2344, was then proposed, passing both House and Senate, and health officials promise the state will have medical marijuana on the market within a year.

On a scale of one to 10, some proponents gave the new law 7.5 points, while others no better than a five. 

“I just got a message that the governor just signed it,” Representative Pamela Anderson said. “It’s a good day. What the Senate sent over to the House was a bad bill, we amended it and and got it to 80 percent of the original measure.” 

Riley “Ray” Morgan, Measure 5’s initiator, gave the law an approximate 7.5 points. “Let’s not forget unless this didn’t get forced down their throats by the voters of North Dakota, we have seen the Republican-led legislature turn down medical cannabis this session as well,” Morgan said. Within a year, “If they don’t have it ready to go by then, there is going to be hell to pay.”

The fight for medical marijuana hasn’t been easy, Anderson said. 

“It’s been two years, and the volunteers and compassionate care committee went out and obtained those signatures,” Anderson said. “This is what North Dakota wanted, and they got it.” 

Although the law will not allow home growing, or edibles, and intoxicant THC-content will be lower than what the original measure proposed – no more than 2,000 milligrams of THC in a 30-day period – the law is “light years” ahead of the Senate’s first bill, Morgan said.

Allowed: plant flower – up to 2.5 ounces per month, patches, tinctures, topicals, and capsules. Clear legal protections are now given to patients, caregivers, and medical marijuana businesses and staff. Patient identification card prices have been lowered to $50. Users will need authorization by a doctor or a nurse practitioner and be certified by the state. 

Illegal: edibles, concentrates, and home growing. Seriously ill patients who live 40 or more miles away from a dispensary will have to travel. Written certifications by medical professionals still remain a problem. Minors, who are defined as anyone under the age of 19, will be limited to the use of pediatric medical marijuana oil, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. 

The law resembles half of what the original Measure 5 wanted, Jason Spiess, longtime researcher and writer on cannabis issues, said. 

“To me, the real story is that 65 percent of the voters can approve a measure and less than one percent of the state can literally cross it out and change it,” Spiess said. “That’s scary. This experience taught me that the people of North Dakota really have no power at all.”  

Spiess gave the new law five points – out of ten – and is concerned about the future price per ounce of medical marijuana. 

“Honestly, I think the people who want the medicine will drive to Colorado to get it,” Spiess said. “I have yet to see any projections from the state indicating what the price on an ounce will be under their model. I do not think anyone will pay $400 to $500 for an ounce. The poor cannot afford it and the rich will continue to use their black market sources they have had for years.

“I believe the new law will increase the black market.” 

As an owner of The Crude Life Media Network, and weekly energy columnist for the Bismarck Tribune, Spiess is also wondering who and how authorized growers will be selected. 

“The word in North Dakota is the circle of powers at the state capital have already pre-selected the growers,” Spiess said. No legislators will go on record saying as much, but “plenty of legislators are saying off the record.” 

The new law is not without its problems, Morgan said. 

“I know the House worked extremely hard on this, and they did make more than 40 changes to what the Senate did,” Morgan said. “The amount of cannabis purchased in a month by patients is troubling as is the amount of THC that is in medical cannabis,” Morgan said. “The legislature and Department of Health are not the patient’s doctor and shouldn’t be limiting amounts and THC content.” 

House Minority Leader Corey Mock D-ND, a co-sponsor of SB 2344, said the law will improve as it rolls out. 

“While not a perfect implementation of Measure 5, it is a good bill that makes medical marijuana, a federally illegal product, available to North Dakotans while complying with an official memo by US Department of Justice,” Mock said. “It decriminalizes medical marijuana and gives flexibility to the Department of Health to make necessary changes to enact the law quickly and effectively. 

“We’ve been assured that all rules will be in place and medical marijuana should be available by next summer, but we’re well positioned to have everything in place by early 2018.” 

Paul Armentano, deputy director for the NORML Foundation, a nonprofit organization seeking to eliminate penalties and legalize marijuana, said North Dakota is not alone with its issues passing the Compassionate Care Act. 

“We’re seeing very similar efforts in other states, meaning lawmakers are significantly amending language and intent of the initiatives voters passed,” Armentano said. “This is a very interesting situation, one that you tend not to see in politics, the will of the voters is sacrosanct, but in these particular instances the will of the voters is case aside.

“When it comes to marijuana legislature, they tend to over-legislate.” 

High dispensary fees, cracking down on home growing, and limiting the number of dispensaries will send marijuana prices skyrocketing, Armentano said. 

“The state wants it both ways,” Armentano said. “They want to cap the regulated market and maximize the profit, so their solution is to allow a very limited number of producers and dispensers, and then to exorbitantly charge fees to those producers and dispensaries.”

Currently, law stipulates a $5,000 non-refundable application fee, a $90,000 dispensary fee and a $110,000 manufacturing fee to be paid every two years, according to Kenan Bullinger, newly appointed director of medical marijuana division for the North Dakota Department of Health. 

“The price of cannabis is going to be a reflection of the level of regulation that is imposed,” Armentano said. “If those individuals are forced to pay exorbitant application fees, then those prices are going to be passed on to the consumer.”

Bullinger works out of a department of one, with no budget yet, he said. “And right now I’m getting tired of myself,” Bullinger joked. 

Some Department of Health employees thought the measure would not pass, but they prepared for it, Bullinger said. “There were a lot of commercials out there that tugged at the heartstrings of North Dakotans, and there is some benefit in this to people with these conditions. Why not give the people who have suffered a little bit of hope and relief? We thought it might not pass, but the people have spoken and we are going to listen.”

Now that medical marijuana is the state law, he’s preparing to hire staff, which will oversee application processes for the two companies that will be authorized to grow marijuana. Some of the stipulation and mandates will include: plans for growing without using chemicals, indoor growing, alarm systems, background checks for employees, and financial stability. 

“We want these places to survive,” Bullinger said. “And we really don’t know how many qualified patients we will have in North Dakota. It’s a crapshoot.” The Department of Health could have thousands of patients at the get-go, or only a handful, he said. 

“I know a lot of people have said we’re dragging our feet, but we’re not dragging our feet,” Bullinger said. “Medical marijuana has to be produced and sold in the state here. We will get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible and make sure the product that gets on the market is safe. We got a lot of work to do.” 

 

Global move toward decriminalization 
Every 37 seconds someone is arrested on marijuana charges, the American Civil Liberties Union reported. From 2001 until 2010, more than eight million people have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, costing law enforcers approximately $3.6 billion per year. Black people are also 3.73 times more likely to get arrested on possession charges than white people, the ACLU reported. 

Political hysteria about drugs led to draconian penalties, which have filled prisons across the nation. 

Since President Reagan’s crackdown on drugs, incarceration of users has skyrocketed, according to the Drug Policy Institute. In 1980, nonviolent drug offenders numbered 50,000 nationwide, and jumped to 400,000 in 1997. As the drug war began running out of steam, George W. Bush threw more money into the programs, which ended in more than 40,000 paramilitary-style SWAT raids on Americans every year, according to the Drug Policy Institute. 

Today, the pendulum has begun swinging the opposite direction, with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising to legalize marijuana, and with Uruguay becoming the first country in the world to legally regulate marijuana in 2013. 

Countries including Portugal, Mexico, and Colombia, have decriminalized all types of drugs including weed, cocaine, even heroine, which are technically illegal, but those who are caught receive no jail time.

“Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one,” media outlet Independent reported in 2015. 

Since Portugal’s decriminalization, drug use and new HIV cases have fallen, according to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. Today, Portugal has one of the lowest overdose percentages in Europe, with three drug overdose deaths for every one million adult citizens, compared to 126.8 deaths per million in Estonia, or 44.6 per million in the UK, according to The Washington Post

In 2015 alone, the United States had more than 52,404 drug overdose deaths, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Opioids claimed 13 lives in Fargo in 2016, according to the Fargo Police Department. 

Although lower death rates cannot be attributed solely to drug decriminalization, at the very least the country has not seen the “severe consequences” opponents, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, predicted. To this day, the US FDA has not approved marijuana as a “safe and effective drug,” and proposes using synthetic versions instead.

In the USA, as of March 2017, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing marijuana, according to nonprofit debate organization ProCon. Eight states, including Washington DC, have adopted recreational use, according to media outlet the Cannabist. Some states, including California, allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow six plants in their homes. 

California was the first state to legalize marijuana in 1996, with Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Maine following soon after. North Dakota is the latest of three states to join more than half the nation in decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis. 

Politicians including President Clinton, who said he “didn’t inhale” in 1992, President Obama, who said he inhaled and enjoyed it in 2001, and Burgum, who recently stated he smoked marijuana while on a hitchhiking trip to Alaska, believe marijuana should be at the very least, decriminalized. 

While more than half of the 50 states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana, the federal government is reluctant to take a stance despite presidential announcements of support. Federal monies have not been shifted into funding health-based approaches, and the war on drugs continues, although to a lesser degree. Each year, more than 700,000 people are arrested for marijuana offenses, according to the Drug Policy Institute. 

“Progress is inevitably slow, but there is unprecedented momentum behind drug reform right now,” the Drug Policy Institute announced. “We look forward to a future where drug policies are shaped by science and compassion rather than political hysteria.” 

Armed DAPL Mercenary Arrested in Bismarck

Dakota Access LLC security guard disguised as water protector who tried to ram car into Standing Rock main camp in 2016 faces drug and gun concealment charges 

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK
– The disguised DAPL security guard set free by law enforcement last year after reportedly driving crazily toward the main No DAPL camp armed with a semi-automatic AR-15, was arrested Tuesday on unrelated charges, according to police. 

Kyle Thompson mugshot – Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department

Kyle James Thompson, 30, was arrested at 8:03 p.m. Tuesday for simple assault domestic violence, carrying a concealed weapon, and for possession of schedule I, II, and III drug paraphernalia, according to the Burleigh County arrest records. By Wednesday afternoon the domestic abuse charge was dropped, leaving two Class A misdemeanor charges: carrying a concealed firearm in his vehicle, and possessing drug paraphernalia, namely syringes and spoons, to consume methamphetamine, according to the Burleigh County Clerk of Court.

Bismarck Police Officer David Haswell stopped Thompson’s car on East Broadway Avenue in Bismarck for a welfare check, according to Clerk of Court records. “Police were notified by witnesses that a male subject was hitting a female subject in the car,” Haswell reported. “I made contact with the driver, Kyle Thompson, and asked him to exit the vehicle. While he exited the vehicle I noticed a handgun concealed between the driver seat and the center console.”

Thompson’s DAPL security badge taken from pickup truck – online sources

In the backseat, Thompson allegedly also had a rifle, Clerk of Court documents reported. Officers also located a small zipper case inside the vehicle with multiple syringes, spoons, a white residue, a grinder with residue, and a glass smoking device, Clerk of Court documents said. 

“The capped needles field tested positive for methamphetamines,” Haswell wrote. “Thompson does not have a concealed carry permit.” 

Nearly six months ago when law enforcement took over the Standing Rock’s Treaty Camp, pitched in the Dakota Access Pipeline’s route, Thompson was arrested by Bureau of Indian Affairs agents after activists slammed a vehicle into his pickup truck. He was disguised as a “water protector” in a t-shirt and bandana covering his face. A short foot pursuit ended in a pond near the camp where according to video reports and interviews with activists, Thompson fired his weapon twice. 

In November 2016, Thompson and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation found no evidence that Thompson fired his weapon. Documents linking Thompson to Thompson-Gray LLC, a security firm, were found inside the pickup truck. 

Brennon Nastacio and Kyle Thompson on October 27, 2016 – online sources

After BIA agents handed Thompson over to Morton County officials, he was released, and he was called a victim by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. 

“Three days ago on October 27th, I was in a situation in which myself and others were faced with the difficult decision to take another’s life or not,” Thompson said on his Facebook page shortly after the ordeal. “I drew out my rifle after my vehicle was disabled and over 300 protesters were rapidly approaching my location, a few had knives and were dead set on using those knives.” 

Brennon Nastacio – Facebook page

The man who stopped him, Brennon “BJ” Nastacio, a Pueblo Native American from Boulder, Colorado, was placed on Morton County Sheriff’s Department’s Most Wanted List. He turned himself in and now faces felony terrorizing charges. Nastacio has had a preliminary hearing where he said the judge already set a court date of October 5. 

“I found that to be fishy,” Nastacio said. “But I pray that he [Thompson] finds help that he needs while being incarcerated. People are so quick to wish bad and talk negative, I am not one of them. I think we endured enough bad and negativity and to add more just isn’t how I was raised. So I am hopeful that this is a wake up call for him to stop walking down that path of destruction.” 

Nastacio remains hopeful that his name will be cleared. “But I am aware that my case is in a county where 92 percent of the people there think that we are guilty. I can only be hopeful and pray for a good outcome.” 

Two others were charged with Class C felony crimes when activists stopped Thompson: Michael Fasig of Minnesota and Israel Hernandez of New York, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department. The two “committed reckless endangerment offenses when they rammed a truck driven by another individual,” a Morton County Sheriff’s Department press release reported.

Provided by Morton County Sheriff’s Department

Thompson-Gray LLC is listed under Silverton Consulting International, according to the Ohio Secretary of State. The company was not authorized to work in North Dakota, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation reported. Rumors at the time when trained dogs attacked activists in September 2016 reported G4S, a U.K.-based security company that often goes by nickname the “Chaos Company,” was involved as the Dakota Access Pipeline’s private security firm are unfounded, and denied by G4S staff. 

G4S does have multiple companies established in North Dakota, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State. 

Charles Graham Clifton with horses in 2015 – photo provided by Joshua Franke-Hyland

Charles Graham Clifton is listed as the owner of Ohio-based Silverton Consulting International, a new company reported as “shady” in online reviews. Clifton is also the owner of AMGI Global, Ltd. Co., now dissolved for tax reasons in Texas, Knightsbridge Risk Management, now dissolved for noncompliance in Colorado. He has connections to the ISSE Foundation Inc., Red Rock Ordnance LLC, and Red Rock Armory, all dissolved for tax issues in Texas, the Lodestar Services International, dissolved in Colorado in 2011, and Humanitarian Defense, dissolved for tax reasons in Wyoming 2010. 

Joshua P. Franke-Hyland once worked with Clifton at AMGI Global, Ltd. Co., he said. “It was a 100 percent failure,” Franke-Hyland said. Clifton is “a scam artist with a very long history of scamming people of all types.” 

Barbara Marie Colliton – photo provided by Joshua Franke-Hyland

Clifton is on the run, Franke-Hyland said, from bench warrants for felony theft and civil lawsuits. Franke-Hyland believes the use of attack dogs was issued by Barbara Colliton, Clifton’s partner and frequent registered agent. Colliton was arrested in December 2016 but released in Taylor County, Texas after restitution was paid, Franke-Hyland said. 

Another company that used attack dogs on September 3 was the Ohio-based Frost Kennels, whose owner, Bob Frost, admitted to using the dogs on September 3, 2016. 

“We went out there to do a job and we did it,” Frost said in September 2016. “So we just said f*ck it, and got our dogs, and tried to make a bridge between them and the workers.” 

Morton County Sheriff’s Department said the companies involved as security firms for Dakota Access LLC on September 3 were not licensed to work in North Dakota, but did not file any charges against security personnel or companies involved. 

Franke-Hyland sued Clifton in Bexar County, and Clifton also is listed as being sued in Bastrop, Texas. 

“Clifton’s dream is to be G4S-AMGI, and was supposed to be Clifton’s answer to G4S,” Franke-Hyland said. “AMGI, like everything else Clifton touches, was complete sh*t. He is a risk in every sense in the word. His best day is as an incompetent short con that refuses to pay the bills.” 

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