NORTHERN HILLS — With tensions mounting and peaceful protests becoming increasingly more volatile affairs, local law enforcement say they don’t expect to see the same kind of street violence happening in the Northern Black Hills, but they are prepared for it if it comes.
“It’s real simple; no, we’re not expecting anything, but should we get a proper peaceful protest we’ll do everything we can to help them and give them space to protest,” Lead Police Chief John Wainman Jr. explained. “Illegal protesting or violence or looting of any kind will be dealt with like any other crime.”
“It’s one thing to exercise your right to freedom of speech, and we support that 100%,” Spearfish Police Chief Curt Jacobs added. “It is the violence and vandalism that comes with; unfortunately, a small select (number) of those protesters or marchers,” that he wants to be prepared for.
Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater said with Rapid City seeing marches and protesters over the weekend, there are rumors of outside interests making their way to this part of the state with unknown intentions. Although VanDewater said the threat level is still low, law enforcement is aware and preparing if an escalation or rioting would occur.
“There’s potential that they could show up here. You keep hearing rumors that they’re coming to Rapid so you never know,” VanDewater said. “Law enforcement-wise I haven’t heard anything to confirm or deny it, but of course we’re keeping our eyes and ears to the ground trying to be proactive about it and try to make sure we’re preparing everybody for it.”
Increased police presence, and spot-checking are a few ways some agencies are taking precautions.
“We’ll be doing some extra patrols of the businesses, but other than that, I haven’t heard of anything that would happen in Belle Fourche,” Belle Fourche Police Chief Marlyn Pomenke assured.
For business owners that feel the need to take extra measures to protect their businesses in case a violent situation breaks out, all the chiefs recommended taking common sense precautions regarding staying open, and being aware of items around their buildings that could be used in a destructive manner.
“Do just a cursory check around their business, make sure there’s nothing there that people could use against their business,” Jacobs said. “Let’s say if they have outdoor furniture, maybe it’s a good idea to bring it inside when you’re not open.”
“As far as a business the important thing to remember is property can be replaced, but lives can’t,” Wainman added. “Do not try to intervene … even if their business is being damaged, it’s just property. Lives are way more important than property.” Instead business owners are encouraged to call the police department.
Residents are encouraged to follow the same pattern of precaution as well.
“I would just advise everybody that they need to secure their valuables and their businesses,” VanDewater suggested.
“Obviously if you see a group (outside your house) you might not want to go out until we come check it out,” Wainman said.
The number one proactive method each chief mentioned was for individuals to report anything they see that might be out of the ordinary or suspicious.
“Nothing is beneath up to at least check on,” Wainman said.
“If you see something, say something,” VanDewater added. “If you see something that doesn’t make you feel comfortable; makes the hair on your neck stand up, or something that just doesn’t seem right whether that’s potential violent people or potential illegal acts we’d rather have you say something and it not be anything, than not say anything and the next thing you know you could have stopped a kidnapping … or a violent protest, or, God, who knows nowadays.”
For more information on conducting a peaceful protest, to report suspicious behavior, or to ask specific advice from law enforcement about how to protect your home or business contact the:
Spearfish Police Department at 642-1300
Deadwood Police Department at 578-2623
Lead Police Department at 584-1615
Sturgis Police Department at 347-5070
Belle Fourche Police Department at 892-4354