Cannon Ball, ND – In a stunning turn of events, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, who for months has used the department’s Facebook page as a means of spouting propaganda – often posting photos accusing people of crimes without any respect for due process – took the page down for almost a week.
There was widespread speculation that the Facebook page, which disappeared the day after Thanksgiving, had been hacked. County officials, however, pushed back against that rumor, clarifying that the Sheriff’s Office had taken the page down after intense and overwhelming negative attention.
Then as suddenly as it had disappeared, on Wednesday night it reappeared. The department explained that the page had been “temporarily unpublished” because the department was “unable to keep up with activity on it.”
“To all of our loyal followers we say thank you for sticking with us through this unfortunate situation,” the post read. The cognitive dissonance revealed by calling thousands of people coming together to peacefully protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is a startling commentary on the mentality of these simple order takers.
But there is much more to the story than Kirchmeier and the Morton County Sheriff’s Office want the public to be aware of. The department actually scrubbed its Facebook page of dozens of incriminating photos that they had posted during its absence – most likely in response to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on Monday.
Prior to removing the photos, which had been posted since August, the Sheriff’s Office had repeatedly claimed that the photos revealed proof of crimes perpetrated by water protectors.
According to a report by Indianz.com:
The data removal comes as Kirchmeier faces a lawsuit in federal court. The class action accuses the sheriff and law enforcement under his command of violating the civil rights of pipeline resisters by engaging a brutal campaign that harmed people like David Demo, whose was shot in the hand with rubber bullets on November 20, the night of one of the most violent clashes on the front line.
The complaint in Dundon v. Kirchmeier was filed on Monday. Attorneys for the plaintiffs — who are led by Vanessa Dundon, a member of the Navajo Nation who could lose the use of her right eye after she was shot in the face at close range — asked for an emergency restraining order against Kirchmeier but it was denied on procedural grounds on Thursday.
Judge Daniel L. Hovland said he couldn’t take action because the defendants had not yet been provided official notice of the lawsuit. The plaintiffs quickly filed a motion for reconsideration but also provided notice that Kirchmeier was served a copy of the suit through a county attorney on Thursday morning.
Essentially, the page was taken offline for a number of days so the Sheriff’s Office could erase any potentially incriminating evidence of civil rights violations from their Facebook page.
“I was there to observe what was going on, and to continue the protest against the pipeline,” Demo said in sworn affidavit for the lawsuit. “I was not threatening to the officers.”
Demo had been filming the attack on Dundon when he was shot. The knuckles in Demo’s right hand were broken and doctors have told him that he will need reconstructive surgery to repair the damage.
“It is shocking to observe and experience such brutal, cruel excessive force by public officers,” Demo noted in the court filing. “I hope that the court will help put a stop to this to protect our rights to peacefully protest, and to protect the water supply from contamination.”
While these attempts at covering up evidence by the Morton County Sheriff’s Office come as no surprise, given their propensity to lie and propagandize the public, these actions need to be recognized for what they are – a means of escaping accountability for the continued violation of U.S. citizens civil rights at the hands of law enforcement operating as enforcers for billion dollar energy corporations.
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