The sound of the national anthem ahead of Sunday’s Vikings game prompted about 50 people to kneel outside of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as they protested police violence, drawing stares and some booing from passing fans.
The protesters chanted and waved cardboard signs with messages like “Got privilege?” and “Stop pretending your racism is patriotism.” They were flanked by crowds awash in horned helmets and purple jerseys, as lines of Vikings enthusiasts made their way into the stadium.
“It’s not about the flag,” said longtime activist Mel Reeves, who helped organize the rally. “It’s about ending police violence. Too many lives have been lost.”
The raised signs were at times met by boos and middle fingers hoisted into the air by fans walking by.
Some squinted from the ticket lines to read the words protesters held. When the group at the rally knelt during the national anthem, one man looking on said, “That’s wrong.”
Fans outside the stadium listened to chants of “No justice, no peace; prosecute the police,” as well as “This is what democracy looks like,” as protesters knelt.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Aleia Harer as she stood in line at Sunday’s game. “It’s their freedom of speech but do we agree with it? No.”
Nearby, Minnesota native Travis Undestad also waited to get inside the stadium — his first visit to the Vikings’ new facility.
“Keep politics and football separate,” said Undestad, who was visiting from Florida. “I’m here to watch the game.”
The rally also drew some support from fans. When Jake Thomas passed the crowd of protesters, he yelled, “I’ll take a knee.”
“I support what the NFL is doing, trying to take a stand,” said Thomas, of Blaine. “There’s great policemen and there’s police that take advantage of what they have.”
Rally organizers cited recent incidents of officer-involved shootings in the Twin Cities, including the deaths of Philando Castile, Jamar Clarke and Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Reeves said more rallies are planned for “every Sunday there is a home game.”