Organizers accuse Fargo Police Chief of using racist language; talk exclusively on movement's future

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 6:32 PM CDT
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Two groups behind recent marches in Fargo are accusing Fargo’s police chief of using racist language.

“This is the leader of the Fargo PD openly calling members of the community thugs in 2020,” Wess Philome of One Fargo said on Tuesday.

Local leaders of Black Lives Matter and One Fargo held a media conference to share an internal email from Chief David Todd in which they said he describes those who engaged in the May 30 protest and riots as “thugs/domestic terrorists.”

The group sat down in an exclusive interview with Valley News Live after the conference to discuss what it is they want.

On the top of their agenda is a thorough investigation into the incidents of May 30.

“Next for us is getting an accurate accounting of May 30th. Once we're able to get that, we're going to be able to build off that because at that time, the truth will be exposed,” Philome said.

They want to know whether Fargo police engaged in illegal surveillance. Former Deputy Chief Todd Osmundson stepped down nearly two weeks ago after reportedly blending in with protestors without permission.

More than a dozen people have been arrested after the May 30 peaceful march turned violent in downtown Fargo.

One man was arrested by police for carrying a gun.

Nonetheless, the groups are calling for those arrested to be freed.

“[Show] proof that you have these gentlemen rioting or looting these businesses, because as of today, there's no proof that has been shown,” Faith Dixon of Black Lives Matter said.

The groups obtained Chief Todd’s email in an open records request. It was dated for June 3 and outlined a plan to law enforcement around North Dakota and parts of Minnesota for the June 5 One Fargo rally.

The event ended peacefully.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said he’s disappointed with the organizers. They should work within the system and accused them of giving the city a cold shoulder by protesting and refusing to sit at the table.

Still, organizers said those meetings weren’t genuine and questions weren’t being answered.

“When you talk about the oppressed people, and you're not dealing with oppression, it's not up to Mayor Mahoney to tell us how we should go about operating and seeking change,” Philome said.

Organizer also shared that they’ve received threats for their actions.

“You're always going to get kind of threats when you know you're speaking out, especially for rights,” Anyiwei Maciek of Black Lives Matter said.

Yet, they plan to move forward with the marches on Friday and Saturday.

We reached out to the city for comment and haven’t received a response yet.

Friday’s march will start at Island Park at 9 a.m. and go to city hall where they hope to meet with the mayor.

Saturday's march is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at Johnson-American Legion Soccer Fields near North Dakota State University.