Local officials raised concerns Friday about potential clashes within Bismarck and Mandan as pipeline protests have moved into the the cities this week.
At a press conference in Mandan on Friday, Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin encouraged people to stay informed and out of the fray.
"We know there is prayerful and peaceful activities that are occurring, and lawful. That's awesome. That's exactly what we want. But we also know, masked in that area, or completely not even peaceful, is violence or potential for violence," Donlin said.
He noted that a growing pro-law enforcement and pro-pipeline contingent has been protesting alongside pipeline opponents in the metro area this week. At times, the groups took to shouting at each other.
"We do thank you for your support and for standing up for your community, but we want to ensure that you do not become part of the problem," Donlin said.
"It is fine to show your support of law enforcement being there, but refrain from any verbal or physical activity that could lead to an escalation or conflict," he added.
Donlin suggested that people concerned about protests near them should register their phones for the CodeRED alert system so they can get updates on road closures, and check the department's social media page.
He also assured residents that local patrols had not been forgone as Bismarck officers have been called to police protests in Morton County. He said many officers are working extra hours and the department is responding to normal calls as usual.
Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary thanked residents for their patience.
"I want to thank local residents for doing what we're famous for, and that's showing 'North Dakota Nice,'" he said. "My hope and prayer and wish is that we continue to do that until we can come to a resolve in this."
Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Dallas Goldtooth said protests have moved into the cities because police barricades have restricted access to construction sites. Also, the activists want to pull people from Bismarck and Mandan into the conversation and put the issue before elected leaders.
"In any effective political campaign, to raise awareness of any issue, you have to get outside of your comfort zone and engage the public about your issue," he said.
Protesters marched around Bismarck and Mandan four days this week, gathering at the state Capitol, the federal building and banks operated by Wells Fargo, an investor in the pipeline.
Goldtooth said he hopes relations will stay civil between the two groups of protesters in town.
"I have complete faith with those in the camps and our allies in Bismarck to stay focused and committed to peaceful action and asserting their First Amendment rights," he said. "Pro-DAPL has every right to voice their opinion, and I hope they don't act upon their convictions in any ways."
Donlin said he's also worried about increasing harassment of local police officers. He said that in recent days an officer had his name, address and date of birth posted online. Some other officers have been identified with photos, and some may even have had credit card and bank information hacked.
"There's simply no reason for protesters, demonstrators, water protectors to release personal information of our officers other than to facilitate tactics of intimidation and harassment," said Donlin, who said he feared for the officers' families, as well.
Goldtooth said he is also concerned about the practice known as doxing. He said it is not being called for or encouraged by any camp or tribal leaders.
"I am concerned about it," he said. "We cannot control internet trolls, what people do on the internet. I, myself, I think there is a fine line between holding public officials accountable and putting their personal identity at risk."
Gov. Jack Dalrymple said that he anticipates needing to borrow additional money to pay for continued law enforcement around the protests — above and beyond the $10 million already borrowed from the Bank of North Dakota.
He blamed the continued unrest on the federal government's postponement of a decision on an easement under the Missouri River and tolerance of the protesters camping on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land. He implied that the choices were politically motivated.
"We believe this is an unnecessary and problematic delay that does nothing but continue to prolong the difficulty that we have as a state and as counties dealing with this great challenge. It increases our costs, and it increases the risks of something happening that everybody would regret," he said.
Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren has said publicly that he was interested in reimbursing North Dakota for law enforcement costs incurred. However, Dalrymple said his office has received no such offer.
Asked whether he would accept that kind of offer, Dalrymple said: "We would have to research it and see what it is that we're talking about."