Over the weekend there was a claim that petitioners working to recall Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn were being threatened and harassed to the point where some were calling for the petition drive to be stopped for the sake of safety.
Now that claim is being walked back by the petitioners themselves (the recall committee is separate from the council), and I have to add that the walk back happened after I started poking around in the story.
For those of you who haven’t been following, a group of angry progressives in Fargo started a recall effort after Piepkorn began asking for data about the impacts of refugee resettlement in Fargo. They, apparently, think that asking for this information is racist.
But last week a post on the Facebook page of the Fargo Moorhead Area Refugee Advisory Council called for an end to the petitioning citing dangers to signature collectors.
The post claimed that petitioners “have been threatened and treated with profanity” and that the recall effort was being called off “solely, to protect individuals, and due to violence it may incite which might result in creating unsafe communities for refugees and their families.”
That piqued my interest, so this morning I contacted the Fargo Police Department to get information on any sort of incidents or investigations involving these petitioners. After all, if petitioners are being threatened to the point where they don’t feel safe, that’s a big story worth telling.
Only there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that threats or harassment actually happened.
“As of now I’m not aware of any threats that have been reported to us,” Fargo Police Chief David Todd told me in an email, though Deputy Police Chief Joe Anderson is still researching the matter to make sure.
I also reached out to the FMARAC asking for details about these alleged incidents. I sent a message to their Facebook page as well as their official email account yesterday morning. Here’s the email I sent:
I haven’t heard anything back yet, but all of a sudden this evening the recall committee is disputing the claims.
According to a report from my colleague Tu-Uyen Tran, members of the recall committee don’t agree with the call to stop petitioning and say they also have no evidence that threats were made.
One recall committee member told Tran that “committee members have investigated the claims of harassment with its volunteers and elders in refugee communities and found no one who was harassed.” This committee member is also claiming that the Facebook posting alleging threats was by someone who apparently went rogue and acted on their own.
I’m a little suspicious.
If the post on the FMARAC page was a hoax or something, or the result of a rogue member of this coalition, why is the post still online with its apparently bogus claims?
Was it the questions I sent them asking for details about the alleged harassment/threats which prompted them to denounce the claims made in the Saturday FMARAC post?
The allegations made in the original FMARAC post – which, again, is still online (see it here in case they delete it) – are very serious.
If they didn’t happen, which is what the activists working to recall Piepkorn are now saying, then somebody lied.
Who is going to be held accountable for that lie?
And why should we trust anyone involved in this recall effort now?