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Police respond to more than 30 calls amid Grand Forks Simplot strike

GRAND FORKS - Police have been called to the J.R. Simplot Co. plant in Grand Forks more than 30 times since a strike began two weeks ago.

Callers have reported incidents including traffic issues, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and assault. Between the strike’s first day on Aug. 4 and Thursday, there had been 31 police calls.

Police Lt. Dwight Love said Thursday afternoon that no one had been arrested or cited during the strike. He said one or two of the incidents have been forwarded to the city prosecutor’s office for possible follow-up.

“It’s such a gray area up there,” Love said. “We’re really trying to determine the ground rules so that everyone understands what they can and cannot do.

“Really at the end of the day, we just want everyone to be safe,” he added.

Brian Nowak, a business agent with the Teamsters Local 120, said some police calls have resulted from picketers trying to get vehicles driving into the facility to slow down while they walk the line.

“Somebody’s going to get hit or somebody’s going to get hurt out there,” he said. “And we’re trying to get them to slow down.”

In one instance, Nowak said, an outside contractor reached out of his vehicle and struck a picketer, resulting in superficial injuries. In another incident, someone reported being spit at, “but there was nobody that could verify that,” Love said.

Love said there’s a “wide range” of people reporting incidents at Simplot, including Pro Dog Security employees.

“We value the safety of our employees above all else and have taken several steps to protect them such as providing additional security personnel inside and outside the plant, providing an alternative parking area, and altering shift times,” Simplot spokesman Doug Cole wrote in an email.

Love said the number of calls isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for a strike. He said the number of calls usually declines as it goes on.

“I would say it does occur; it’s not unordinary,” Nowak said of police responses to strikes.