FARGO — Saying the city is in "imminent danger of suffering civil disturbance, disorder, riot" and other threats from OneFargo and Black Lives Matter protests this weekend, Mayor Tim Mahoney issued an emergency declaration Wednesday, June 17, and later rescinded a section related to a ban on carrying weapons.
At the same time, OneFargo organizers struck back, refusing to believe the findings of an internal police probe into former deputy chief Todd Osmundson's actions on May 30, and condemned "Mayor Mahoney's media campaign to discredit OneFargo and BLM-FM."
Both the emergency declaration and OneFargo's statements against the internal police investigation point toward increasingly strained relations between city leaders and protesters, who are planning marches Friday and Saturday to raise awareness of fatal police encounters.
Mahoney said evidence exists that some protesters intend to carry weapons during Friday's protest. On Friday morning, protesters plan to gather in Island Park at 9 a.m. and march to Fargo City Hall to deliver a letter of intent that would begin police and social reforms. Protesters expect Mahoney to sign the letter, but saying he has no final draft, Mahoney said he will not sign it.
City of Fargo officials announced that City Hall, the downtown public library and Fargo Municipal Court will be fully closed on Friday, with employees working remotely. Starting at 8:45 a.m. Friday, all MATBUS routes will be rerouted away from Island Park and downtown Fargo due to the march.
The declaration Mahoney issued authorizes Fargo Police Chief David Todd to set curfews, halt trains and cars, limit and prohibit the sale or carrying of weapons, and evacuate residential or commercial buildings to “maintain the peace or to protect the health, safety or property of the city or its citizens from the danger for which the state of emergency was declared.”
A second march is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday and is set to start near North Dakota State University.
Although the carrying of guns was not specifically listed as prohibited in Mahoney's emergency declaration, weapons “not limited to, bows and arrows, air rifles, slingshots, knives, razors or missiles of any kind" were listed. The ban on weapons was later rescinded as it was in conflict with state law.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Mahoney's declaration was the "wrong way to handle this situation."
"This is yet another attempt by the mayor to chill the free speech rights of the Fargo community," said Dane DeKrey, the group's advocacy director in North Dakota.
In a statement, Mahoney said he remains "extremely hopeful of constructive events this weekend and I wish the organizers, marchers and everyone a successful demonstration."
"I have signed an emergency declaration to ensure all resources are in place (if needed) to protect all members of our community, infrastructure and personal property," the mayor added.
OneFargo organizers said Thursday in a press release that the internal police investigation inaccurately found that no one in the department knew of Osmundson's unauthorized undercover work during the May 30 protest and riot.
"This does not address the important and pressing matters of racial justice and inclusion ... nor does it serve our city to turn a blind eye to the duplicity displayed by the top echelons of the Fargo Police Department," OneFargo's release stated.
Osmundson, then a deputy chief with 31 years of experience, walked in plain clothes among protesters on May 30 and "created significant risk to the public, himself, and other officers," according to the internal investigation report made public Wednesday. He was suspended for a week, and then later resigned.
Although Todd acknowledged police officials had communication with Osmundson during the protest and riot, "We had no idea that he considered himself to be on duty and operating in an undercover type of status," Todd said.
Based on public records OneFargo has obtained, the group insists that communications between Todd and Osmundson prove that intel Osmundson provided was used by police in real time, "which is something an officer does, when they're part of a law enforcement operation."