Super Bowl week means an unprecedented increase in surveillance. The Super Bowl is designated as a “National Security Special Event,” the same as concentrations of world leaders and the presidential inauguration. The Secret Service takes the lead, supported by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and buttressed by millions of dollars in federal security grants. According to the Star Tribune, the security apparatus will be composed of officers from 60 police departments, 40 federal agencies, and 400 members of the Minnesota National Guard along with private security.
Obtaining information on the scope and breadth of the Super Bowl‘s impact on Minneapolis have proven elusive for journalists. However, records obtained by Public Records Media (PRM), a St. Paul-based non-profit has outlined what little information is available. PRM began their efforts years ago exhaustively filing and pursuing Data Practices Act and Freedom of Information Act Requests, and filing lawsuits when necessary. They found that the actual Super Bowl bid submitted to the NFL, outlining monies and commitments, is not available to the public. The city claims that it does not have a copy. Police officials also refuse to release information regarding budgets for the Super Bowl.
According to documents obtained by PRM, officials boasted that the security zone around the stadium, “will be the most secure area in the world on the day of the Super Bowl.” Furthermore, an August meeting briefly outlined the approach of the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office for Super Bowl protesters: “Response for protests will be to process and release, with complaints to be issued later.”
The presence of security forces will be massive and unprecedented. The closest comparison is the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) in St Paul. According to New York Times reporting, the days leading up to the convention were chaotic as both activists based locally and arriving for the RNC were arrested preemptively, their equipment and personal effects confiscated. For the first time, state security forces used the “Minnesota Anti-Terrorism Act” to charge enhanced penalties like, “conspiracy to riot in the furtherance of terrorism.”
A group of arrestees known as the RNC 8 was charged individually with conspiracy to commit riot and property damage. This group was under enhanced surveillance including police informants. Amid public pressure they would eventually have their charges dropped by Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner. During the convention, press freedoms were also threatened. Democracy Now journalist Amy Goodman was rounded up along with many other journalists resulting in a lawsuit filed against the Secret Service and St. Paul and Minneapolis Police Departments. All parties would eventually settle.
The Republican National Convention expanded the security apparatus. In 2008, 75 to 80 cameras were installed in the central corridor at the cost of approximately 2 million. Minneapolis is experiencing a similar increase in surveillance capacity this week. The Star Tribune reported that:
“If the most recent Super Bowls in San Francisco and Houston are an indication, the security operation is like none other the Twin Cities has ever seen. Snipers will be on rooftops and in buildings in strategic places. Officers in head-to-toe commando gear will be on the streets gripping assault rifles against their chests.
Minneapolis Police Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher said the influx of federal agents to Minnesota would be the largest in the 52 years of Super Bowl history. “We are prepared for anything that might come our way,” he said last week.
CBS Local reported that a downtown multi-agency command center would coordinate among the various agencies. The command center will leverage the enhanced surveillance tools. “We have basically a 3D image of downtown Minneapolis. I can zoom into different areas and you can see what’s happening there,” Gerlicher said.
Fear over ICE Raids
With the enhanced presence of the Department of Homeland Security and a beefed-up security apparatus, there is fear of raids within the immigrant community and advocates.
Prior concentrations of federal authorities have led to concerns over the opportunistic nature of ICE. During the hurricane relief efforts in Houston, President Trump announced plans to rescind DACA, a double blow to the sizable immigrant population deeply affected and cautious of seeking government aid. Many lives were further endangered as rumors persisted that there would be ICE agents all over the city, leaving some indecisive about fleeing for safety.
By February 2017, the Trump administration followed through on its promises to increase deportation as raids swept the entire country, including Minneapolis. Day-to-day ICE holds are increasing during routine police stops and ICE check-ins.
According to reporting on El Huateque, ICE has emphasized targeting individuals in the interior of the country, quietly but drastically expanding their scope and reach amind a decline in arrests on the southern border. Subsequently, in October 2017, ICE released a "Request for Information (RFI) to identify multiple possible detention sites to hold criminal aliens and other immigration violators in support of its public safety mission under the authority of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended. These sites will be located in the greater Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, and Salt Lake City area."
If the plans proceed, between 10,000 and 30,000 beds will be added to the deportation regime in predominantly Midwest cities.
Vulnerable Populations Will Be Most Impacted
For the last two years, the staff at PRM have reviewed meeting minutes of the security and logistics-focused Super Bowl Planning Sub Committee. According to RPM, “the panel considered a range of issues that illustrate how the National Football League’s signature event will be allowed to disrupt the daily routines of downtown Minneapolis in ways large and small.”
In particular, the homeless community was a significant focus for planners.
“Last August, one Hennepin County official discussed housing homeless youth during the Super Bowl at the county homeschool – a residential treatment center for juveniles ages 13 to 20 located in suburban Minnetonka.”
RPM notes that in a 2016 e-mail message county official Mikkel Beckmen cautioned that, “Hennepin County Human Services & Public Health Dept. operates a large number of programs and services out of the Human Service Building at 525 Portland Ave. S, as well as sends lots of homeless families from that location to the large shelter at People Serving People which is just a few blocks away.”
He was told “it would be safe to assume” that there would be some disruptions.
Access to the Metro Transit system will be limited. On Super Bowl Sunday, game day ticket holders will have exclusive access. They will be screened at the Stadium Village and Mall of America stops. Along the route, other passengers will not be let on.
The Hennepin County Human Service Center will be closed January 29 - February 2. The downtown office plays a central role in supporting the most vulnerable populations in the city. These officers process cash, food and medical assistance. The emergency family shelter is also downtown. County workers and the clients they serve will be expected to use other offices during the week with sources at the facility anticipating that the change will be complicated, leading to confusion and frustration. Other offices are substantially smaller than the downtown space, likely creating added layers of frustration and displacement.
While temporary, these restrictions and interruptions could have unintended consequences. The lasting impacts of the unprecedented preparations for the Super Bowl will be hard to gauge for those not profiting from it or choosing to resist it.