Protester arrested for rappelling during game: Bag was checked

by: Brittney Johnson Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Two protesters rappelled down from the upper balcony to unfurl a banner protesting Bank of America during Monday night's game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said in an email that authorities arrested four people in the incident.

The two protesters, Erica Madrid and John Nicholson, dangled over fans in the lower bowl and in front of press-box windows late in the third quarter, then displayed a banner telling the Charlotte-based financial institution to "dump Dominion."

The banner also included a website address, which outlined opposition to Bank of America's role in financing a liquefied natural gas export facility by energy company Dominion Resources in Cove Point, Maryland. Bank of America owns naming rights to the Panthers' home stadium.

The protesters dangled by ropes well into the fourth quarter. The Charlotte Fire Department was then called to assist with a high-angle rescue and were placed into custody once firefighters were able to bring them down.

The activists from "We Are Cove Point" said they are protesting "Bank of America's role in financing the planned liquefied natural gas export facility in Cove Point, Maryland."

Drummond says the team and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department are investigating the incident.

Both Madrid and Nicholson as well as David Baghdadi and Angela Vogel were charged with second-degree trespassing, resisting an officer and dropping objects at a sporting event.

Protester arrested for rappelling during game says bag was checked

One of the protesters arrested for rappelling  during Monday Night Football told Channel 9 that they bought tickets to the game, and went through security with a bag with more than 60 feet of rope, a climbing belt and carabiners.

The NFL is launching an investigation to find out how.

Hours after she was released from jail Tuesday, activist Erica Madrid told Channel 9 they're targeting the bank for financing Dominion an energy company building a natural gas project in Maryland.

"This is for Cove Point. This is for the people who are greatly at risk because of a liquefied gas plant export facility being built," Madrid said.

The stunt forced security to clear rows of fans while fire crews took 20 minutes to perform a high angle rescue.

"They were tied into the seating at Bank of America Stadium,” Rescue Capt. Jerry Rodgers said. 

It also sparked concerns over how they were able to get rope and climbing belts inside.

"They checked my bag. They waved me down with a wand. We passed security," Madrid said.

Stadium officials are working with fans seated nearby and police to find out how they got the gear in. Right now, they say it's too early to know for sure.

Channel 9 checked the Bank of America Stadium website and did not see any specific mention of ropes or belts.

The director of risk management said they will put a renewed focus on game day security but they haven't said if that means a longer wait for fans at the gate.

Statement from Lance Emory, executive director for Panthers Risk Management: 

Can you tell us what happened? How do you think they got that equipment into the stadium?

Let me first of all say that we are cooperating with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department regarding the four suspects arrested as a result of the incident. We do know that the suspects entered the stadium legitimately and that they purchased tickets via the Ticket Exchange for the upper deck so we know that happened. We are conducting an inquiry as to how the repelling equipment got in. We just don’t know at this point in time but we are trying to determine that. That is an ongoing inquiry internally. Everybody’s cooperating and we are also reaching out to fans that may have been inconvenienced to talk to them about their experience and so, that’s an ongoing effort.

Do you think they brought the repelling equipment through security?

I just don’t have any idea at this point. We don’t know. We’re not that far into the inquiry.

Can you say what kind of equipment they did bring in?

At this point, I haven’t seen it. The police department seized it as evidence so they’ve got it as part of their charges.

What changes will you make coming up for future home games to make sure this doesn’t happen?

Well, we’re just going to reemphasize our training and execution of ingress procedures. You know, everybody is subject to search when they come to the stadium. So, we just redouble our efforts in that regard. Hopefully we didn’t have an incident that could’ve been discovered before. As you know, we have NFL security policy that dictates what we do stadium to stadium and that’s what we try to follow and do our best to execute it. 

A question a lot of people have had is will fans have to expect that even potentially longer lines getting into the game next week? Do you think there’s going to be additional searches?

I don’t know that they can expect longer lines. Since we are going to reemphasize the whole process, people are probably going to go the extra mile to make sure that we are looking as close as we can without inconveniencing the fan which is a delicate balance every time we do it, so I wouldn’t say it’s going to have a negative effect. Everybody realizes what happened and so they don’t want a reoccurrence of that.

Can you list all the equipment they had that isn’t allowed in the stadium?

Well, the prohibited items list is on the website if you want to look at that and read that as a result of what came into the stadium, and the police seized the equipment. I haven’t actually physically seen it. I’ll see it later. 

Will fans that were moved get refunds?

We are in conversation with fans that were inconvenienced as a result of the incident.

Be sure to download the WSOC-TV Wake Up app to get the latest breaking news, weather and traffic on your phone first thing in the mornings. 

Read more top trending stories on