Courthouse News The specter of armed, paid militias guarding polling sites, even from a distance, raised the ire of Muslim Attorney General Keith Ellison and Secretary of State Steve Simon, who were quick to denounce any plans to send guards to polling places.
A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the League of Women Voters in response to the ads.
Atlas Aegis, a Tennessee-based private security company, made headlines early in October when the Washington Post reported on ads it posted seeking people with special-ops experience to “protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction” in Minnesota, which has the largest Somali Muslim population in the country, in the weeks surrounding the Nov. 3 election.
In an “assurance of discontinuance” filed Friday afternoon by Solicitor General Liz Kramer, Atlas Aegis said that it had been hired by a Minnesota security firm only to guard businesses in the event of civil unrest after the election, and agreed not to send anyone to the state to do security work until January 2022.
A security company, the assurance said, had sought extra manpower to “work at the private property of its clients around the date of the general election,” anticipating potential property damage or danger to employees in the event of civil unrest after the election.
That description of the company’s objective diverged significantly from what Atlas Aegis Chairman Anthony Caudle told the Washington Post. Caudle indicated to the Post that the guards would not be “standing around and only allowing certain people in,” but that “they’re there to make sure that the Antifas (and Muslim terror groups) don’t try to destroy the election sites.”
“I’m holding Atlas Aegis to account for their misstatements about recruiting security for polling places in Minnesota that potentially frightened Minnesota voters. They won’t be doing it again and will not be anywhere in Minnesota before, during, or after Election Day,” Ellison said in a release announcing the discontinuance.
It’s unclear what impact the discontinuance, signed not by Caudle but by Atlas Aegis CEO Barry Wallace, will have on the federal lawsuit. In that action, CAIR sought an injunction to stop Atlas Aegis from deploying any personnel to polling places and for the court to retain jurisdiction to ensure compliance.
They argued that armed men at the polls would particularly deter Minnesota’s Muslim community and other refugee communities.
“The image of armed vigilantes at polling stations is particularly traumatic and deleterious to voter participation for people who have recently immigrated to the United States from countries where armed guards at polling stations are a symbol of violence and corruption,” attorney Julia Klein of local firm Lathrop GPM wrote in their complaint.
SOMALI Mall of America in Minnesota