The divergence of opinion on the North Dakota pipeline protesters that made themselves the center of attention Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings-Chicago Bears game at U.S. Bank Stadium has been strong. Some view them as zealot patriots fighting for the rights of the environment. Others view them as trespassers who thumbed their nose at the conventions of the standard view of what is and is not legal. Some see them as misguided idiots who don’t know the basic definition of what a press conference is – not standing up in front of a crowd of reporters and then refusing to answer any question of substance.
Somewhere in between those perceptions lies the truth.
But, for those who were in attendance at Sunday’s game, there remain some critical questions that haven’t been adequately answered and need to be before the next major event is held at U.S. Bank Stadium.
It always takes someone, whether well-intentioned or not, to make life miserable for those who don’t have a problem with obeying the law.
After 9/11, getting in and out of an airport became a necessary evil for travelers. When someone discovered you could put an explosive device in a shoe, that caused everyone to now walk through the airport security line in stocking feet – a problem for germaphobes nationwide.
Nobody will argue that the protesters had bad intentions in mind like the other people that have altered the lives of countless innocents. The protesters didn’t intend to hurt anyone, but what they did has opened the door to serious questions about security at U.S. Bank Stadium and other venues.
All that has currently been said about the incident is that the two rappelling protesters – Karl Zimmermann Mayo and Sen Holiday – bought tickets and entered the stadium with their gear hidden on their bodies, according to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority and stadium manager SMG.
One can only imagine that the egg on the face provided by this innocuous incident of benevolent terrorism has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of combined man-hours of investigation that have taken place since about 1 p.m. Sunday.
There are people in the community that have legitimate bad intentions. Their radar pinged when it was witnessed that U.S. Bank Stadium could be breached. In the world of security, that is a fatal flaw.
Most have dismissed Zimmermann Mayo and Holiday as misguided kooks who went a little too far to make a statement, but their action should serve as a warning that security needs some serious improvement before someone come to the stadium with bad intentions.
All reports have claimed that the protesters are experienced climbers well-versed in securing the tools of the trade. But, it’s safe to say they had never climbed the giant support beam from which they hung their “Divest” banner. It doesn’t take a genius to say that they had to believe that someone would notice them in the immediate vicinity when two people start traversing the beam up to the stadium roof and alert someone in a position of authority.
Time was of the essence.
For all of their best intentions, had either of them made a mistake in their haste, there were innocent victims that would have taken part in their 100-foot death drop as being at Ground Zero of their landing zone.
The fact it didn’t happen is the difference between the two likely being charged with gross misdemeanors and the potential for what would be viewed as a tragedy.
The lack of response to a legitimate hazard – although it should be noted that law enforcement with experience in the equipment they used appeared to secure their connection to the beam – should be the source of contention from this point forward.
According to the best minds on the case it was seven or eight rows of fans that were moved to another point in the stadium. For those fans in the first row beyond the blackout zone, how willing should they have been to trusting those who gave the all-clear for them to enjoy the game?
They likely looked up more than they looked at the field. They were the innocent victims of protest.
For every protester who throws a pie or tosses paint on someone’s fur coat, there are people with truly bad intentions to smile at the sign of weakness.
The protesters made their point.
Life at U.S. Bank Stadium is going to change as a result. Fortunately, a sophomoric prank may finally provide the security needed for an event with 66,000 in attendance. When the Super Bowl comes to town, security is handled by the NFL and is much more intense.
The photographers who climbed the cranes during construction of the stadium with impunity were Strike One.
The guy in the Brett Favre jersey waving to his non-adoring public was Strike Two.
Here’s hoping the third strike is equally inane.