Measure 2: Police move in on Bowman forum-goerThe temperature rose Wednesday in Bowman between a Williston resident and the head of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce during a public debate about Measure 2.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
The temperature rose Wednesday in Bowman between a Williston resident and the head of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce during a public debate about Measure 2.
Palmer Reising, a Williston resident, formerly of Ohio, supports Measure 2 and was one of about 100 people who attended the meeting hosted by the Bowman County Development
If Measure 2 passes June 12, it would abolish the property tax and prioritize the Legislature’s spending.
Reising addressed the room, specifically Andy Petersen, North Dakota Chamber of Commerce president/CEO and lawyer Bob Harms, when the floor was opened to the
“I said I wanted people in North Dakota to get the same tax benefits the Chamber gets, but Andy Peterson denied that chamber members receive tax benefits,” Reising said.
Reising’s line of questioning was stopped short by the moderator when the debate ran 12 minutes over time.
After both sides gave closing arguments and the room began to clear, Reising said he approached Peterson to continue the discussion but was stopped again.
“I was six feet from the podium when I asked Andy Peterson if he would state for the record that no chamber organization receives special tax treatments,” Reising said. “That’s when he called the police forward in what I believe was an attempt to intimidate me, even though I posed no threat whatsoever.”
Peterson denies that.
“I felt uncomfortable with (Reising’s) body language and how he was approaching me,” he said. “When I called the police over it was just to monitor the situation and nothing happened. I have been involved in 20 meetings on this around state and it was the first time the temperature rose. Both sides clearly disagree but manage to have a civil discussion all around the state.”
Reising said he walked away when the officer approached, but he disagreed with how the situation was handled by both Peterson and Headley.
“If you are trying to engage in public debate and a police officer is standing feet away with a taser and a gun, it gives you a very chilling effect. Bob (Harms), who said I was in no way threatening, suggested we move elsewhere to talk, but the police officer kept following us to the door, staying just feet away.
“I just wanted to get answers for the record and Headley clearly attempted to intimidate me. If my getting up and asking legitimate questions makes me a threat, that’s chilling and an oppression of freedom of speech. Bringing in the police to put pressure on your opponents is very dangerous for freedom.”
Headley was contacted by The Dickinson Press for comment on the situation but did not return phone calls.
Reising, who volunteers with a group that works in support of Measure 2, said what happened at the Bowman meeting won’t silence him.
“I take this as an affront to liberty and freedom of speech,” he said. “As a responsible American I should speak up at these meetings and I will stand up at the microphone again.”