Wahpeton Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson said his officers are monitoring posts on social media about an alleged riot planned in the city for Friday. According to the post, the author suggested the riots that took place in Fargo last weekend should move down to Wahpeton June 5.
Several local young people in the community have been identified by law enforcement as being associated with the posts, he said, and have been contacted by officers about the repercussions of inciting a riot.
“Anyone found to be inciting a riot can be charged with a Class B or C felony,” Thorstein explained. “There are consequences for something like this.”
In a release from the city of Wahpeton Tuesday afternoon, Thorsteinson said any sharing of that social media post could result in charges due to violent nature of the riots in Fargo.
Under Chapter 12.1-25 in the North Dakota Century Code, someone arrested for inciting a riot involving five or more people can be charged with a class C felony. A person arrested for inciting a riot involving 100 or more people can be charged with a class B felony.
A riot is described as “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of five or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates a grave dangers of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function,” the Century Code states.
Thorsteinson said he doesn’t want to overreact to the post and has not seen any additional posts regarding a riot. He has seen pushback from others against the idea on Snapchat, the social media platform where the post originated. About 20 or so community members had contacted his office about the post as of Tuesday morning.
“I have all the sympathy for the people who are protesting what’s going on across the country. There’s nothing worse to a good cop than a bad cop,” Thorsteinson said. “But I haven’t heard anything about protesting here, only the riot post, so that’s troublesome.”
He has been in contact with Richland County Sheriff’s Office about the post and both agencies are prepared if something takes place. Thorsteinson said he also has the ability to call in the National Guard if needed. Richland County Emergency Management is also aware of the situation.
Protests against police brutality began across the country after the death of an African-American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis during an arrest more than a week ago, and was quickly followed by civil unrest and violent rioting across dozens of U.S. cities. Several people have been killed when protests during violent.
A peaceful protest in Fargo held Saturday, May 30 turned to unrest when some individuals began to throw water bottles and rocks at police, smashed restaurant and shop windows and trapped two officers inside their squad car. Fargo Police Chief Dave Todd said he believed about 50 people came to Fargo to solely “hijack the event,” the Associated Press reported. Four officers were treated for injuries, including two who were hit with rocks and bricks and suffered concussions. Three squad cars were damaged. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney issued a curfew for downtown Fargo that was largely ignored.
“I am extremely disappointed that a peaceful protest has turned into a violent confrontation in the heart of our metro,” Mahoney said Saturday night. “We respect the right of people to peacefully protest. Black lives matter. Period. No question. But we do not support anarchy. We do not support vandalism. That is not us and that is not Fargo.”
The four officers involved in the May 25 Minneapolis encounter were immediately fired after bystander video of the Floyd arrest was made public. Officer Derek Chauvin, who can be seen in the video holding his foot on the neck of Floyd for more than eight minutes while Floyd said repeatedly, “I can’t breathe,” has been arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.
A memorial service for Floyd will be held Thursday, June 4 at North Central University.