UPDATE: Grand Forks man arrested for blocking train threatens to sue city

Roland Riemers
Roland Riemers(none)
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 7:11 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2022 at 8:51 PM CDT
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Officers were dispatched to the railroad crossing in the 5400 blk of Demers Ave. around 3:20 PM Monday after a report was received of a man blocking the train from moving. The report was that some type of fireworks were being shot off by the man also.

Upon arrival, contact was made with Roland Riemers who wanted to make a citizen’s arrest because the train was blocking the street. Employees on the train said he was on the tracks which stopped the train from moving.

Riemers was arrested for Disorderly Conduct and brought to the Grand Forks County Correctional Center. More investigation will be done and other charges are possible.

A perennial candidate for state office, Riemers was expelled from his own party last year after running for a different party in 2020.

Thursday, Riemers sent a release to area media outlets, stating he is withdrawing his complaints about the railroads excessive blockage of city streets by their trains. He says he has plead not-guilty to Disorderly Conduct for attempting to do a citizen’s arrest on a train engineer who violated the current city blockage limit law and will get a jury trial on that matter. He says he is also considering a law suit against the city of Grand Forks for this false arrest.

He included a letter to Grand Forks Police, dated October 13, which reads:

It has come to my recent attention that although both city and state law forbid trains from blocking a crossing for more then 10 minutes, that it would be fruitless to prosecute these as numerous recent court decisions have struck down the 10 minute blockage limits in other states under the grounds that the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act pre-empts all state and local laws regulating railroads. So there is absolutely no doubt that the railroad would win out in any appeal of these clear violations. So it would be a waste of Grand Forks taxpayer money to try to enforce these 10 minute laws. Furthermore, as even the DOT recently admits, there are no federal laws or regulations restricting the time a train can block a crossing. They can park and block a street 24 hours a day if they wish. Public safety is utterly of no importance or consideration. The only recourse for the public is to call the Federal Railroad Administration at 800-555-5555 and record their complaint into a federal data base. Or to get their Federal congressional delegation to enact a federal law to correct this problem. Which will probably not happen anytime in the future.

Still, Grand Forks Ordinance 8-1002 has not been struck down YET, so it is still law. So I am only withdrawing my complaint in regards to the exceeding the 10 minute limit. I am not withdrawing my complaints in related matters such as the train engineer resisting arrest or the police not doing their statutory or professional duties.

While I have given up the use of local or state law to enforce reasonable blockage time limits, it does not mean I and others will not use other peaceful and legal means to demonstrate, stop trains, and otherwise encourage the railroad to not treat our streets as their private train parking area.