After protest, Detroit Lakes leaders address safety, curfew and rumors

A look at Washington Avenue, downtown Detroit Lakes, during the Sunday, March 31, protest. (J.J. Perry/Tribune)

After the Sunday, May 31, protest in Detroit Lakes, the Tribune shared several questions with law enforcement and city leaders, who replied in an email response Tuesday, June 2.

Law enforcement officers spoke with demonstrators and community members often throughout the evening, said Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steven Todd in an email response to questions. “Different individuals wanted different things, but in general the demonstrators wished to exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said.

Law enforcement learned Sunday morning about the protest planned for that afternoon and evening, and the Detroit Lakes Police Department and Becker County Sheriff’s Office worked together to make sure there were enough officers and equipment to handle potential problems, Todd said.

“We requested and received mutual aid support in the form of staffing and equipment from neighboring jurisdictions as a precautionary measure, however none of those resources were deployed or utilized in the field,” he said.

No citations were issued and no arrests were made, Todd said, “and we are thankful that neither were necessary.”


Gallery: Protest in Detroit Lakes May 31 Demonstrators gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Detroit Lakes Sunday, May 31, one of many protests taking place in Minnesota and around the country after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The DL protest lasted around 3-and-a-half hours, before demonstrators and onlookers dispersed peacefully at the city's 9 p.m. curfew.

There were rumors among demonstrators that "white supremacy groups" were watching the event, but Todd said he did not know if that was the case.

Several residents, including some military veterans, said they were there to "back up" the police or protect downtown Detroit Lakes from looting or arson.

“We are thankful for the relationship we have with our community,” Todd said. “We respect the rights of business owners and community members to protect their personal safety and property. We also respect the rights of peaceful demonstrators to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Law enforcement has offered to engage in followup conversation with the demonstrators, Todd said.

“That offer has been extended and Sheriff (Todd) Glander and I are always interested in improving upon the services our departments provide.”

The decision to enact a curfew Sunday was a collaborative effort made at the activated Emergency Operations Center (in the Becker County Courthouse), Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk said in an email response to questions.

Representatives from county and city law enforcement were at the meeting, along with other city and county staff, he said. City Attorney Charlie Ramstad was involved in drafting the emergency resolution and, per statute, “only the mayor of a municipality has the authority to declare a local emergency within the city,” Brenk said.


The curfew order was posted on Facebook and forwarded to local media, he said. “The details regarding the demonstration were not known for most of the day,” he added. “We don’t take issuing a curfew lightly, so we didn’t want to do it until it was deemed necessary.”

The curfew was in place from 9 p.m. Sunday through 6 a.m. Monday.

As information continued to come in throughout the evening, he added, “it became clear that, out of an abundance of caution, it made sense to issue the curfew to best protect and serve our residents and locally owned small businesses.”

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