Pipeline protesters smuggled rope, carabiners, banner past Minneapolis stadium security
MINNEAPOLIS—Dakota Access Pipeline protesters used tickets to enter U.S. Bank Stadium for Sunday's Minnesota Vikings-Chicago Bears game and smuggled through security nylon rope, carabiners and the 40-foot vertical banner they unfurled after climbing a truss, according to stadium manager SMG.
SMG released three surveillance photos Tuesday showing climbers Sen Holiday and Karl Zimmermann Mayo entering the mobile express lane at the Legacy Gate and later walking through the north main concourse about an hour before they scaled the third-level truss behind one of the end zones.
Zimmermann Mayo was shown wearing a black, waist-length winter coat inside the downtown Minneapolis stadium while Holiday had removed her coat and was wearing a T-shirt in the concourse photos.
"Our investigation shows these individuals properly entered the stadium as ticketed guests through our gates," SMG marketing manager Lisa Niess said in a statement. "The individuals brought in nylon rope, a small number of carabiners and a lightweight banner concealed on their person underneath winter clothing.
"These items were distributed among the group of protesters upon entry. These facts are consistent with interviews law enforcement officials conducted with one protester, upon being taken into custody.
Spectators are required to pass through metal detectors for all U.S. Bank Stadium events. Moreover, the NFL requires all tote bags to be clear plastic and no larger than 12-by-6-by-12 inches.
"Screening procedures are designed to detect items that cause harm, including weapons and explosives," Niess said. "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."
Niess said Holiday and Zimmermann Mayo "gained unauthorized access to the ridge truss by scaling regulation standard physical barriers designed to prevent entry. We have taken immediate steps to implement design changes to prevent any future unauthorized access."
"We expect to make additional changes, as we continue to evaluate protocols to strengthen security here, and share our findings with other stadiums across the country," Niess said.
Carabiners are hand-sized, spring-loaded clips that climbers and rescue workers use to thread and connect ropes for rappelling. Many are made of metal.
"We are not saying a metal detector wouldn't go off when these individuals went through the security screening if they were carrying metal on their person," Niess said in a follow-up email.
"Carabiners are not prohibited items to bring into U.S. Bank Stadium. If carabiners are put into the screening bins, similar to where you would place your cellphone or keys, they would not be stopped from entering U.S. Bank Stadium because they are not a prohibited item."
Super Bowl LII is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium, and the security breach is drawing NFL scrutiny.
Spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league "will review all aspects of the incident to understand how it occurred."
Minneapolis Deputy City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng said prosecutors have asked Minneapolis police to continue their investigation.
"A charging decision will not be made until the investigation is complete, which may take a week or two," Heng said in a statement.
Holiday, Zimmermann Mayo and another alleged accomplice, Carolyn Feldman, were arrested shortly after Sunday's game. They were jailed on suspicion of trespassing and gross misdemeanor burglary and released Monday.
An attorney representing the trio did not return a telephone call or email seeking comment.
"Safety of all U.S. Bank Stadium guests continues to be the primary concern of all stadium partners," Niess said in the SMG statement. "We will continue to work together with the Minneapolis Police Department to further investigate this situation. It remains our intent to prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law."
Meanwhile, Holiday and Zimmermann Mayo held a news conference a block away from the stadium Tuesday to reiterate their demands that U.S. Bank divest its financing deals with builders of the stalled Dakota Access Pipeline.
They refused to answer questions about how they planned the stunt in front of 66,808 football fans, their climbing expertise, tactics or safety risks to them or spectators displaced as a precaution at the start of the second quarter.
No one was injured during the protest. However, eight rows of seats in Section 102 were evacuated below the protesters while dozens of Minneapolis police, firefighters and stadium security officers swarmed the base of the truss to strategize how to get the protesters down safely.
After the game ended, Zimmermann Mayo and Holiday descended from the truss and were arrested without incident as lingering fans cheered and heckled them.
The Vikings said 185 seats were evacuated. The team was reaching out to affected ticket buyers, including 71 season-ticket holders in Section 102, to offer full refunds. Fans who purchased the seats on the NFL ticket exchange also would be refunded, according to team spokesman Jeff Anderson.
"We are deeply concerned about Sunday's incident," the team said in a statement Tuesday. "The safety of our fans, players, coaches and game day staff is of the utmost importance. Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, SMG and Monterrey Security officials are currently leading the investigation to understand how this occurred.
"The Minneapolis Police Department is also investigating the matter, and we will withhold further comment until its investigation is complete and we have a full understanding of the facts. At that time we will look at the situation comprehensively so that all measures are taken to ensure such incidents do not happen again."