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ND flags flown at half-staff 24 days this year after months of violence

Flags in Grand Forks, N.D. fly at half staff on July 18, 2016 for the victims of the Nice, France attack. (Meg Oliphant/Forum News Service)

BISMARCK—A spate of violence here and abroad has prompted North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple to order state agencies to fly the U.S. and state flags at half-staff for two dozen days so far this year, already surpassing last year's total.

The 24 days Dalrymple has ordered flags at half-staff this year includes recognition of the attack in Nice, France, that killed 84 people last week, according to news releases posted on the governor's website. A directive has not yet been issued for the killing of three law enforcement officers Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., meaning this year's count is likely to climb in the coming days.

The order for the Nice attack expires at sunset Tuesday.

Dalrymple issued the order remembering the victims of the attack in Nice in accordance with a directive from President Barack Obama, which he also did in the wake of the ambush that killed five police officers in Dallas earlier this month as well as the June attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Dalrymple ordered state agencies to fly flags at half-staff for 19 days last year, which included the presidential decrees after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris.

Presidential flag directives are for federal installations, but they are forwarded to governors who have the option to issue a similar order for state agencies, said Jody Link, a Dalrymple spokeswoman.

Because the governor can only direct state agencies or offices, he only encourages local governments, businesses and residents to follow suit, she said.

John Bernstrom, a city of Grand Forks spokesman, said he couldn't think of an instance in which the city didn't follow the governor's order.

"We get the directive from the president, and then the governor will make the decision, yes or no, will the state comply?" Link said. "And typically we do, with a presidential directive."

But in the case of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Dalrymple ordered flags at half-staff for one day, less than what President Obama had ordered. The same happened for former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who died in March.

"What our policy states is that the flags go down on the day of their funeral or interment," Link said.

Dalrymple also has the power to order flags at half-staff on his own, which he did in remembrance of Jason Moszer, a Fargo police officer who was killed by a gunman earlier this year.

Flag-lowering gestures aren't reserved for current events. Dalrymple also has ordered them on Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, meanwhile, has directed flags to be lowered for almost 40 days this year, according to proclamations posted on his website. That doesn't include an order issued this week in remembrance of the late former Gov. Wendell Anderson, which is effective through the day of his interment.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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