MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It was a message seen in person by tens of thousands of people, and with the help of social media all across the world.
Hanging from the rafters at U.S. Bank Stadium in the middle of the Vikings-Bears game was a banner that read “U.S. Bank, DIVEST #NoDAPL.” Alongside the banner were two protestors rappelling down, helping draw more attention.
One of them, Sen Holiday, shot a video while she was dangling in the air stating to the camera, “We are here today at the U.S. Bank Stadium in solidarity with water protectors from standing rock. We are urging US Bank to divest from the Dakota Access pipeline, a project threatening the tribe’s clean water supply.”
The protest started in the second quarter. Some fans thought it was coordinated by the Vikings or the stadium until they got a closer look at the banner.
“I think these guys are basically trying to shed light on their message and they definitely achieved their goal,” said fan Willian Ihrke.
After several hours, Holiday and Karl Zimmermann, the other protester, were coaxed by police and fire fighters to end their stunt. They were both arrested. Police said they would be booked on trespassing charges.
Later in the evening, Nina Roberson, the media representative for the protesters, explained why U.S. Bank was the protest’s main target.
“(U.S. Bank) has $175 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company to the Dakota Access Pipeline. (The stadium) is a great place to stage a very public demonstration urging the bank to divest from the pipeline,” she said.
While it did get plenty of attention, there was also plenty of concern.
The seats directly below the banner were evacuated. Police and fire fighters even climbed up near the protesters, urging them to carefully come down.
“This here today was potentially very dangerous,” said Corey Schmidt, public information officer with the Minneapolis Police Department. “That sign could have fallen, they could have fallen. We don’t want people to do that.”
Roberson says the protesters bought a game ticket to get inside. In a phone interview while inside the Hennepin County Jail, Zimmerman wouldn’t say how he got the banner and his climbing equipment in with him.
“I think the relevant part about this isn’t actually how that happened. What’s relevant is that the Dakota Access Pipeline is unsafe. It’s unsafe for the residents of Bismarck, it’s unsafe for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and it is unsafe for the Missouri River,” he said.
Officer Schmidt couldn’t explain how the protesters got their equipment inside. He said security at the gates is managed by the stadium and not police.
Fans were bothered by the fact that the protesters were able to pull off the stunt, including climbing up the scaffolding without being stopped.
“It’s pretty amazing though that they can just climb over that and just run up,” said fan Heidi Bargmann as she pointed to the area where the protesters climbed. “Lots of changes will happen.”
U.S. Bank Stadium released a statement while the protest was happening. It read in part:
“Two individuals appear to have climbed over a guard rail to access the ridge truss. We immediately dispatched on-site Minneapolis police and fire departments to the scene and cleared the seating section below. We are working with all stadium partners, and our primary focus is on the safety of the fans and these two individuals.”
Both Zimmermann and Holiday were booked into the Hennepin County Jail for gross misdemeanor burglary and trespassing. A 27-year-old female, identified as Carolyn Feldman, was booked into the Hennepin County Jail and is being charged with obstructing the legal process.
The Minneapolis Police Department will be meeting with all partners of U.S. Bank Stadium, including the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, as the incident is under investigation.
Play was not interrupted on the field during Sunday’s game.