While the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings battled on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Sunday, another type of drama unfolded high in the rafters.
During the second quarter of the game, a pair of protestors scaled steel girders and rappelled down from the rafters with a banner urging U.S. Bank, the naming rights sponsor of the stadium, to divest from the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which would span four states at a cost of $3.8 billion pipeline.
Opponents contend the pipeline could affect drinking water and Native American artifacts. Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners says the pipeline will be safe.
WGN Radio reporter Adam Hoge posted this photo of the banner, zoomed out for perspective on how high the protestors were hanging above the seating area:
Here is a closer photo:
According to reporters on the scene, the area beneath the protestors was cleared of spectators, and firefighters and police officers were in the vicinity as they decide how to proceed with removing the duo.
Police officers scaled the girders to try to get the protestors down, but they climbed back down, according to a video posted by Chicago Tribune reporter Brad Biggs:
Matt Vensel, reporter for the Star Tribune, posted a statement purportedly from the protestors involved in the situation at the stadium:
Eventually, the two protesters — a man and a woman — were arrested for trespassing, Minneapolis police spokesman Officer Corey Schmidt said.
The protesters hung in a seated position about 100 feet above the seats that were evacuated for safety. The pair watched the rest of the game, occasionally shifting positions or waving at people in sections behind the east end zone. Authorities declined to aggressively remove them out of safety concerns.
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Stadium operator SMG released a statement saying the two people apparently climbed over a guard rail to access a ridge truss. Police spoke with them from a catwalk in attempt to get them to stop, and by the fourth quarter about a half-dozen police and firefighters in rappelling gear were on the truss waiting to remove the protesters.
But the protesters willingly climbed up their ropes as soon as the game was over. After speaking with authorities, they climbed down the stairs toward the concourse while being booed by a handful of fans who stayed to watch.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the team's only concern is about the "safety of our fans and guests."
Protesters say U.S. Bank has extended a large credit line to Energy Transfer Partners. U.S. Bank spokesman Dana Ripley declined comment.
The pipeline would carry oil from western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois where it can be shipped on to users. Protesters camped in North Dakota for months to try to stop completion of construction.