Last month I wondered if some of the groups organizing the (often unlawful and sometimes violent) Dakota Access Pipeline protests should be on the hook for the state’s expenses in responding to them.
This isn’t an unprecedented sort of thing. Earlier this year bombastic presidential candidate Donald Trump visited North Dakota, addressing a conference in Bismarck put on by the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
Trump, I don’t need to tell you, is a controversial figure, and with about 7,000 people in attendance at the conference and protests of the visit planned, local law enforcement put in some extra effort to make sure everyone was safe. According to the Bismarck Tribune, “56 Bismarck police officers, 39 highway patrolmen, 19 Burleigh County deputy sheriffs and seven Bureau of Criminal Investigations agents worked the event.”
All this extra manpower for Trump’s visit ran up a bill – roughly $13,000 – which was sent to the NDPC for payment. With the estimated cost to taxpayers of the law enforcement presence at the Dakota Access protest site estimated to be $100,000 per week, who should pick up the tab?
Governor Jack Dalrymple was asked about the expenses by a reporter during a press conference earlier today (see video of the whole thing below), and he said the state would try to pursue reimbursement.
I couldn’t hear his whole answer, to I checked with Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent who confirmed it.
“[Dalrymple] did say that where parties can be shown to be responsible for expenses, the state would seek reimbursement,” Zent told me.
That’s good to hear. In theory, the idea they might be held accountable for the expenses of the protest might prompt some of the organizing groups to starting keeping their people on the right side of the law.
Of course, as a practical matter it might be hard to unravel just who should be held responsible. It seems like chaos down there. It’s not at all clear that Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault – who put out a national call for protesters to join his tribe here in North Dakota – is in control of the situation. People from all over the country – indeed, all over the world – have traveled to the protest site at the behest of numerous tribes and political organizations.
If some of them get out of control, who is responsible? Who is responsible for the people who have gotten out of control already?
That’s a tough knot to unravel, but it’s worth looking at. Because the taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize unlawful protest.
Here’s the video of the press conference: