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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
The Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters who swung from the heights of U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday had tickets to the Vikings-Bears game and carried their gear into the building hidden under winter clothes.
The pair, who were arrested after the game, "had nothing visible in their possession that violated U.S. Bank Stadium policies and had nothing that prevented them from clearing the security screening upon entry," according to Lisa Niess, the marketing manager for SMG, the company the operates the stadium.
The climbers, who had at least one accomplice who was also arrested, brought in "nylon rope, a small number of carabiners and a lightweight banner concealed on their person underneath winter clothing," Niess said, adding that once inside, the climbing gear was distributed among the protesters.
The conclusion is consistent with "interviews law enforcement officials conducted with one protester, upon being taken into custody. They had nothing visible in their possession that violated U.S. Bank Stadium policies and had nothing that prevented them from clearing the security screening upon entry," according to the statement that also was attributed to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), which oversees the building on behalf of the public.
SMG and the MSFA reiterated that all stadium guests and employees must pass through security screening to enter the building. The procedures are designed to "detect items that cause harm, including weapons and explosives," the statement said.
In addition, the operators released three still photos captured from video surveillance that showed protesters Sen Holiday, 26, and Karl Mayo, 32, entering the building about 45 minutes before the game's noon start.
In the second quarter of the game, the two got past a guard railing and climbed up a giant steel ridge truss to a catwalk. From there, they dropped down on their ropes, unfurling a sign urging U.S. Bank to divest from the four-state pipeline as they hung above fans in purple seats near the eastern end zone.
No one was harmed in the stunt, but concerns have been raised over how the protesters pulled off the maneuver so easily. The $1.1 billion stadium, which opened Aug. 3, can seat more than 66,000 people.
In addition to the high-profile Vikings games, the building will be the site of the Super Bowl in 2018 and the Final Four in 2019.
The protesters stayed aloft for more than half the game. Multiple times Minneapolis police and firefighters spoke to them from the catwalk above. The two quickly pulled themselves up after the game as fans filed out.
Holiday and Mayo spent the night in the Hennepin County jail as did Carolyn Feldman, 27, an alleged accomplice. Initially the two climbers were arrested on gross misdemeanor charges of trespassing and burglary. But the Minneapolis city attorney's office released them, saying formal charges would be filed after an investigation that is expected to take at least a week.
The protesters held their own news conference Tuesday afternoon outside the stadium.
They steadfastly refused to talk about their own experience, repeatedly trying to bring the focus back to their cause, which is to stop the pipeline. Pipeline opponents say the $3.8 billion project could affect drinking water as well as sacred American Indian ground. The protesters say U.S. Bank has extended a large line of credit to Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners.
The pipeline has been on hold for several weeks, the result of a yearlong battle between the petroleum industry and a coalition of American Indian tribes and environmentalists. The tribes and their supporters won a round last month, when federal officials put a hold on a final stretch of construction, but the expectation is President-elect Donald Trump will push the pipeline to completion.
Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747
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