Continuing a strategy to target the project's financial backers, a small team of Dakota Access Pipeline opponents on Sunday pulled off a dramatic banner-drop from the rafters of the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as the Minnesota Vikings played the Chicago Bears.
Above the crowded stadium, which can hold nearly 70,000 attendees at capacity, the two individuals—later identified as Karl Zimmerman, 32, and Sen Holiday, 26—rappelled from large steel girders during the second quarter of the game alongside an expansive banner reading, "US Bank, DIVEST, #NoDAPL."
— Collin Rees (@collinrees) January 1, 2017
— Margie (@AdopteeMovement) January 1, 2017
Holiday, who shot live video while dangling beside the banner, explained their reasoning. "We are here today at the U.S. Bank Stadium in solidarity with water protectors from standing rock," she said. "We are urging US Bank to divest from the Dakota Access pipeline, a project threatening the tribe’s clean water supply."
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) January 2, 2017
Organizers of the protest also emailed a statement to local news outlets:
Was just emailed this press release about the protest at US Bank Stadium. pic.twitter.com/kQ4lxA1hOl
— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) January 1, 2017
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According to the statement, U.S. Bank was targeted for a $175 million line of credit given to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of the pipeline.
Though the game was never disrupted, those seated directly below the banner were evacuated from their seats by stadium staff.
Corey Schmidt, a public information officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, told local CBS affiliate WCCO Channel 4 News the largest concern was for safety. "That sign could have fallen, they could have fallen," Schmidt said. "We don’t want people to do that."
Returning to the ground after several hours, both Zimmerman and Holiday, were arrested for trespassing and burglary, both gross misdemeanors, for their participation in the protest. A third person, identified by police as 27-year-old Carolyn Feldman, was arrested on lesser charges.
Speaking from jail with WCCO reporter Jeff Wagner, Zimmerman declined to say how they got their climbing equipment and the banner inside the stadium, but said that like police, the idea of safety was also on their mind. "What’s relevant is that the Dakota Access Pipeline is unsafe," Zimmerman told Wagner. "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."
Did the message get across?
Local football fan Willian Ihrke was asked what he thought.
"I think these guys are basically trying to shed light on their message and they definitely achieved their goal," he said.