Back the Blue supporters demonstrated outside of The Bismarck Tribune on Monday, voicing opposition to a news story that named a police officer who was involved in a shooting.
The officer, who shot a suspect after he was attacked while responding to a call, invoked Marsy’s Law, a new law approved by voters that expands the rights of crime victims.
The Tribune published the officer’s name last week, citing a publicly available court document.
Ten people stood outside the Tribune on Monday, many waving Back the Blue flags and attracting honks of support from passing motorists.
Heather Ziebarth, of Bismarck, said she was hoping to send a message that the community wants to see the newspaper support law enforcement.
“We are a community that supports our law enforcement. Our local newspaper has shown on numerous occasions that they don’t,” Ziebarth said.
Several participants said it was inappropriate to publicize the officer’s name before an investigation is complete.
“It wasn’t that his name couldn't be released, it was just the timing of it,” said Rich Knodel, of Bismarck.
The officer said he was punched in the head and had his eyes gouged while responding to a call on Oct. 15 at a Bismarck motel. The officer first tried to subdue the suspect with a Taser before shooting the man in the stomach, wounding him, according to police. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation is reviewing the incident.
Mike Connelly said local law enforcement has been through a lot recently, referring to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as well as dealing with an increase in calls related to the opioid epidemic.
“We’ll stand up and represent because they’re out there protecting us, and it’s a very thankless job,” Connelly said.
Bismarck Tribune publisher Gary Adkisson said the newspaper applauds the citizens who came to “Back the Blue.”
“The Bismarck Tribune stands with you in your support of our police officers,” Adkisson said.
He added that the newspaper takes its First Amendment rights and responsibilities seriously.
“We believe the law under which the police department wished to withhold the name is flawed as it limits the press in its ability to inform the public in its right to know,” Adkisson said.