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Minnesota deputies return home from North Dakota protest

ST. PAUL--Minnesota deputy sheriffs are back home after aiding North Dakota law enforcement officials at an oil pipeline protest. While Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said on Facebook that she opposed sending Minnesota officers to North Dakota, wh...

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Hennepin County, Minn., deputies are supported by an armored car from Fargo on Oct. 27, 2016, at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest site on North Dakota Hwy. 1806 north of Cannon Ball. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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ST. PAUL-Minnesota deputy sheriffs are back home after aiding North Dakota law enforcement officials at an oil pipeline protest.

While Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said on Facebook that she opposed sending Minnesota officers to North Dakota, where American Indian and other protesters have objected to building a new pipeline for months, Gov. Mark Dayton said he has no problem with it.

"I do not object," Dayton said Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, when asked by Forum News Service.

Dayton said all governors have signed a compact to send law enforcement officers to other states to help in an emergency. North Dakota officials have declared the protest an emergency and asked Minnesota for help.

"They went and they served that purpose," Dayton said. "I commend them putting their lives and well being on the line. It sounds like they conducted themselves very professionally."

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Dayton's state emergency manager authorized sending Minnesota deputies, who returned to Minnesota Monday. North Dakota is to cover the cost of sending personnel and equipment.

Hennepin County sent 29 personnel, Anoka County six and Washington County five. The Minnesota Public Safety Department reports their mission began Oct. 23.

Video from Morton County, N.D., shows what was described as Hennepin County deputies on the front line of Thursday's clashes with protesters, using batons and pepper spray.

Smith said she has no control over sheriffs' actions, but she thinks it is wrong to send them to North Dakota.

"I strongly support the rights of all people to peacefully protest," she wrote on Facebook about the coalition of protesters at the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camp.

Hundreds of people protested in Minneapolis last week after they discovered that Sheriff Rich Stanek sent deputies to North Dakota.

Several Democratic legislators met with Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, a Republican, on Monday.

"Reports as to the level of force utilized by law enforcement personnel at this protest are extremely troubling, and my colleagues and I have many questions about the Hennepin County sheriff's involvement in this activity," Rep. Karen Clark, D-Minneapolis, said.

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Minneapolis is home to a large American Indian community, and Rep. Peggy Flanagan, D-St. Louis Park, said Stanek's decision to send deputies could hurt relations. She is a member of western Minnesota's White Earth Nation.

"Law enforcement is not taking sides on this issue," Stanek said. "Our decision to help Morton County was operational, not political. We were there to assist maintaining public safety, preserving the peace and protecting the constitutional rights of all parties involved."

Added Washington County Sheriff William Hutton" "When it comes to public safety, we received a call for help, and we responded to it."

The coalition of Minnesota protesters, known as Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, plans to continue protesting how law enforcement officers are treating North Dakota protesters. They will gather in Minneapolis at noon Thursday to sing, pray and hear poems from several faith traditions before delivering letters to Stanek.

Even though his deputies are back home, the group announced Tuesday that it will deliver letters to Stanek "asking him to take responsibility for his action in deploying deputies and equipment to North Dakota and a guarantee that he will not send them again."

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