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Port: This guy tried to arrest the Grand Forks City Council last night

"This is what is talked about as a citizen's arrest by a private person," right-wing activist Michael Coachman told the council after a testy back-and-forth with Mayor Brandon Bochenski. Coachman said he could make the arrest on the authority of state law and "god the father and the holy spirit."

Michael Coachman attempts citizen's arrest
Right-wing activist Michael Coachman attempts a citizens arrest at a meeting of the Grand Forks City Council on Feb. 22, 2022, over what he alleged were violations of state and federal law by the council and other public officials around the FuFeng wet corn mill project.
Image captured from City of Grand Forks public video feed
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MINOT, N.D. — Last night the Grand Forks City Council gave approval to a controversial corn milling plant to be built by a Chinese-owned company named Fufeng.

The project is controversial for a lot of reasons, from not-in-my-backyard concerns about smell and traffic and zoning to growing domestic concerns about China's presence in our economy.

That's a healthy debate to have, but things got a little bizarre at the meeting last night when a right-wing activist and frequent fringe candidate for public office, Michael Coachman, attempted a citizens arrest over the project.

"This is what is talked about as a citizen's arrest by a private person," Coachman told the council after a testy back-and-forth with Mayor Brandon Bochenski over his address (Coachman lives in Larimore, not Grand Forks). He said he could make the arrest on the authority of state law and "god the father and the holy spirit."

The alleged charges? According to Coachman, the council as well as Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, Congressman Kelly Armstrong, Gov. Doug Burgum, and a laundry list of other public officials violated federal law prohibiting support of a foreign government as well as state laws related to the refusal to perform duties and criminal conspiracy.

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Coachman didn't get much of a reaction from the council, but he did get some applause from the audience.

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In response to the notice of arrest — and, to be clear, nobody was actually arrested — councilwoman Katie Dachtler pointed out that she had actually voted against the Fufeng project and that councilwoman Jeannie Mock had recused herself from the vote due to her employment by a company involved with the project.

Coachman, who had walked away from the microphone, had a response to these points but it's not audible to me from the recording.

Coachman, who is very much a part of the Trump movement, is an interesting figure in North Dakota politics, and has often been used as a pawn by other political interests. In 2018 the North Dakota Democratic-NPL paid to promote his campaign for secretary of state in a cynical attempt to draw votes away from incumbent Al Jaeger.

In 2020, Coachman's gubernatorial campaign was promoted by state Rep. Rick Becker , the founder of the Bastiat Caucus of Trump loyalists who is currently challenging Hoeven in the NDGOP's Senate primary , as a way to get in a dig at the incumbent Burgum. Becker's support garnered Coachman's write-in campaign an eyebrow-raising 17,500 votes, good for nearly 5% of the total.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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