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Security Company Cancels Plans to Send Armed Guards to Minnesota Polling Places

A private security company that said it was seeking former special forces to guard Minnesota polling places has assured authorities the company was only seeking guards for private property and has agreed to stay out of the state for over a year.

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — A private security company that said it was seeking former special forces to guard Minnesota polling places has assured authorities the company was only seeking guards for private property and has agreed to stay out of the state for over a year.

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 in the weeks surrounding the Nov. 3 election. 

A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters and the Council on American-Islamic Relations in response to the ads. 

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. 

Both the clients and the company remain obscure, although Tuesday’s lawsuit seeks to force Atlas Aegis to identify them.

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 don’t try to destroy the election sites.”

President Donald Trump has described antifa as a terror group, a designation broadly refuted by the FBI and other authorities.

The specter of armed, paid militias guarding polling sites, even from a distance, raised the ire of state officials and voting-rights activists. Attorney General Keith Ellison and Secretary of State Steve Simon were quick to denounce any plans to send guards to polling places.

“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.

“Minnesota and federal law are clear: it is strictly illegal to intimidate or interfere with voters. I want to make it crystal clear to anyone who is even thinking about intimidating voters that I will not hesitate to enforce the laws against it to the fullest extent,” he added.

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 and the League of Women Voters 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. 

She also argued that Caudle’s comments on “antifas” and on Black Lives Matter pointed to an intent to deter voters based on their political beliefs and race.

The first hearing in that case is still scheduled for the afternoon of Oct. 26 as of Friday evening. In a letter to Judge Nancy Brasel, a Trump appointee, Atlas Aegis’ attorney Terrance Moore, of Hellmuth and Johnson, requested an extension in light of the fact that he had been retained three hours after Friday’s deadline for a response to the injunction motion.

The League and CAIR did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Atlas Aegis and its attorneys.

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