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Commentary: Militarized police officers were not why the #NoDAPL protests were violent

A protestor pours gasoline on a fire blocking North Dakota Hwy. 1806 on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, north of Cannon Ball. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Were the #NoDAPL protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline violent because they were perpetrated by political extremists who pick fights with cops as a way to draw attention to their case? Or because the cops equipped themselves thoroughly against that threat?

A lawyer for the activists says it’s the latter in response to an Associated Press report detailing some $600,000 spent on riot equipment by the State of North Dakota during the protests:

“Having police officers show up looking like Stormtroopers, seems in many ways only exacerbated clashes that did occur,” said Lauren Regan, founder and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, which is part of the lawsuit. “When police officers anonymize themselves, when they put on all that Rambo gear and face shields and no one can identify them, it tends to incite that mob mentality.”

At least some law enforcement officers did remove their name tags while working the protests, as I confirmed with the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department last year, but there was a pretty good reason for it.

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