NFL not wor­ried about im­mi­gra­tion protests

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - LIZ CLARKE

Su­per Bowl LI may well serve as a back­drop for protests against the pres­i­den­tial im­mi­gra­tion or­der that has sparked push­back and im­pas­sioned gath­er­ings at court­houses, air­ports and pub­lic squares around the coun­try.

But of­fi­cials in charge of se­cu­rity in and around Sun­day’s game at Hous­ton’s NRG Sta­dium in­sisted Tues­day that they have no spe­cial con­cern and are pre­pared for all even­tu­al­i­ties.

“I have no con­cerns re­lated to that,” said NFL se­cu­rity chief Cathy Lanier dur­ing the NFL’s an­nual pregame se­cu­rity brief­ing. Lanier, who is Washington’s for­mer po­lice chief, was named the NFL’s top se­cu­rity of­fi­cer in Au­gust.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion or­der, an­nounced Fri­day, tem­po­rar­ily bans en­try into the United States for cit­i­zens of seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries and refugees from around the world.

Join­ing Lanier and of­fi­cials from the FBI, CIA and Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity for Tues­day’s brief­ing, Hous­ton Po­lice Chief Art Acevedo said his depart­ment was well-schooled in work­ing peace­ably with de­mon­stra­tors and voiced no rea­son to ex­pect oth­er­wise as the Su­per Bowl draws near. Acevedo pre­dicted the most ef­fec­tive peace­keep­ers may well be the cit­i­zen-pro­tes­tors them­selves.

“We’re not con­cerned with protests,” Acevedo said. “We have a re­ally, re­ally long his­tory of hav­ing re­spon­si­ble ac­tivists in our com­mu­nity. There is a long-stand­ing work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Hous­ton Po­lice Depart­ment, our spe­cial re­sponse group that han­dles mass demon­stra­tions. Most im­por­tantly, we have open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Acevedo then added: “For those that might want to come in from the out­side and cause prob­lems in Hous­ton, know this: You will be greatly out­num­bered by ac­tivists that care about their mes­sage, that care about what they want to con­vey. They don’t want their protests, if there is one — and more than likely there will be — to be hi­jacked by anyone who wants to come here and cause prob­lems. They will be the first ones to stand up to any­body.”

Given the Su­per Bowl’s scale and promi­nence, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment des­ig­nates it a “Level 1” se­cu­rity event. That’s the coun­try’s high­est pri­or­ity se­cu­rity des­ig­na­tion, which means the re­sources of the FBI, CIA and U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity will help lo­cal law en­force­ment safe­guard the pro­ceed­ings. On Sun­day, 73,000 NFL fans are ex­pected at NRG Sta­dium, with an­other 100 mil­lion viewers look­ing on.

The es­sen­tial mes­sage of Tues­day’s brief­ing: Se­cu­rity mea­sures both vis­i­ble and be­hind the scenes will keep fans safe, but they won’t be so bur­den­some that they rob spectators’ en­joy­ment.

“All eyes of the world will be on the event,” said Chip Ful­ghum of the U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment. “We are pre­pared.”

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