If you’ve followed the saga of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests it can sometimes seem as if the protesters have a lot of support and the police have little to none. In fact, several local groups have formed spontaneously in the Bismark, North Dakota area in response to the behavior of the protesters. From a Dickinson Press story published last month:

DefeND BisMan is an organized Facebook group with almost 5,000 members that will hold a community meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Bismarck Moose Club to plan its response to any protests and celebrate the community, says event coordinator Kay LaCoe…

This group is proactive and members will go to protest sites, if they know about them.

“We’re not against lawful protests and people should be able to speak their mind. We want protesters to know people are watching; we have our cameras out to make sure there’s no vandalism,” said [Tyler] Everding, adding his group stays well back from the action, out of the way of police and finds that, of late, protest actions have been more cordial, less confrontational.

A story from the Bismark Tribune described how the group responded to a video posted by DAP protesters which claimed a local hotel had kicked out a veteran:

Tyler Everding, founder of the DefeND BisMan Facebook group, saw the video while in the bathroom during the event at the Bismarck Moose Lodge. He grabbed two dozen people gathered there and took off toward the hotel. There, they talked to hotel employees, whom Everding said were in tears, and agreed to leave two vehicles with supporters until things calmed, in case employees wanted to be walked to their cars, escorted home or supported in other ways.

 “If a business owner feels threatened is where I draw the line,” said Everding, an apprentice electrician, who lives in Bismarck.

All of this activity took place in early December. Kay LaCoe, who helped organize the group in support of local businesses and law enforcement, began getting threats online soon afterwards. NPR reports today:

The Bismarck resident recently called on residents to support businesses targeted by protesters. But soon after, hateful messages flooded her Facebook. She even received death threats and just wants a final decision on the pipeline to end all this tension.

“Whatever the government and the tribe and the energy companies decide to do with that pipeline, I’m good with it. Just give me my hometown back,” she says.

LaCoe is saying the right things. The problem with large groups of people is that, inevitably, someone fails to understands where to draw the line (or just gets carried away with the rightness of their cause). That’s certainly been true of the pipeline protesters, some of whom have engaged in vandalism and violence already. Let’s hope that’s not the case with people looking to show support for local businesses and law enforcement.