The League of Women Voters of Minnesota and the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota filed the lawsuit Tuesday, they announced in a press release.
The security contractor, Atlas Aegis, put out a job listing earlier this month advertising “staffing security positions in Minnesota during the November Election and beyond to protect election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction.”
“Defendants’ objective is to further intimidate people with certain political beliefs from accessing polling locations through the presence of armed, highly trained, and elite security personnel,” the lawsuit alleges, arguing that the call for security personnel violates the Voting Rights Act’s language against voter intimidation.
The suit names Atlas Aegis, its founder Anthony Caudle, “John Doe 1” — an unidentified local security contractor — and several other John Does that make up the still-unknown clients of the security firm.
Caudle has refused to identify who was paying for the security presence, telling The Washington Post earlier this month that it was a “consortium of business owners and concerned citizens.”
He added that the country had been unprepared for Black Lives Matter protests this year and that Atlas Aegis was working to make sure “that that doesn’t happen this time around,” a likely reference to the demonstrations that rocked Minnesota after the police killing of George Floyd in May. Minneapolis and other cities experienced widespread property damage and clashes between protesters and law enforcement.
Election officials in Minnesota told the Post, which first reported on the recruitment effort earlier this month, that the extra security wasn’t welcome. The state’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, said “the presence of armed outside contractors at polling places would constitute intimidation and violate the law.”
But Caudle defended the recruitment effort, saying that “these people are going to be never even seen unless there’s an issue. So it’s not like they’re going to be standing around and only allowing certain people in.”
Tuesday’s lawsuit alleged that Caudle had made clear “that Defendants’ goal is specifically to deter perceived members of certain groups based on political belief and race.”
For one thing, the plaintiffs asserted, he’d told the Post that the security forces would be present “to make sure that the antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.” Separately, he commented that the country had been “unprepared” for Black Lives Matter protests.
Arguing that the presence of of former special forces personnel would intimidate voters, the lawsuit pointed to an old cover of Soldier of Fortune magazine, which features Atlas Aegis’ Chief Operating Officer Michael Beltran in full kit:
The profile of Beltran doesn’t mention Atlas Aegis, which was founded last year.
The suit also cites an article on Atlas Aegis’ website on church security, which notes, “Armed uniformed security personnel will always look menacing to those who are seeking a soft target.”
“The kind of voter intimidation that this group has planned is exactly what the Voting Rights Act was written to protect against,” said Michelle Witte, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, said in a press release accompanying the lawsuit.
“Today we affirm our stand against this clear plan of voter intimidation and suppression by armed forces targeting communities of color and new Americans,” added CAIR-Minnesota Executive Director Jaylani Hussein.