FARGO — The president of the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce apologized for a social media post from his organization last weekend that said buses of protesters from Fargo were coming to the city on Sunday, May 31.
"I take full responsibility," said Jeff Griffen, who heads the organization. "It was a mistake and I apologize to the people of Fargo."
The chamber president made the accusation in posts to Twitter and Facebook warning downtown residents and businesses about possible threats to property after protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned violent in many cities across the U.S.
Griffen said he should have verified the information with police before suggesting protest buses were headed to Sioux Falls from Fargo. The rumor, he said, came from the Downtown Sioux Falls Inc. organization, whose leader said it came from a city counselor.
That man, organization president Joe Batcheller, said it's true he received the information this way, but said the city councilor stands by her action of "ringing the alarm" about any dangers. The counselor got information about Fargo protest buses, as well as a rumor about another group coming from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from social media reports, Batcheller said.
Batcheller said he also "sincerely apologizes if anyone in Fargo felt offended" and that the situation "should have been "handled differently."
"Fargo is a great community, with a great downtown and great people," he said.
Sioux Falls police spokesman Samuel Clemens said there is no indication protesters came from outside the city.
"We didn't find any evidence of busloads of people coming to protest or riot," he wrote in an email late last week, adding that no one from Fargo had been arrested in Sioux Falls.
Batcheller and Griffen said the violent crowd was largely made up of local young people, even teenagers, mostly "taking out their angst."
Of the four people arrested in connection to the riot, three were from Sioux Falls and one was from nearby Sioux City, Iowa, according to arrest records.
Police have also released photos of others who allegedly threw rocks at police, damaged squad cars and looted and vandalized businesses in The Empire Mall.
A peaceful rally took place in downtown Sioux Falls earlier in the day May 31.
Similar reports were made in Fargo about busloads of out-of-the-area protesters at parking lots in the city. Police Chief David Todd said late last week he couldn't verify if the reports were true or not.