Some Minneapolis businesses closed, evacuated Tuesday

Simon E. Chabel

Saying Minneapolis is under no direct threat, Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton yesterday urged citizens to remain calm and allow local law enforcement to do its job in the wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

Sayles Belton said the city is in a state of “full alert preparedness,” although its government remained open and city employees remained on the job.

“We will not take any chances, but we do expect things to be fine here at home,” she said at a City Hall press conference.

The general manager of the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis ordered the building’s evacuation Tuesday morning, according to IDS spokeswoman Betsy Buckley. Downtown offices for Qwest Communications Inc. were also closed on corporate orders, said Sam Grabarski, Downtown Council president.

Buckley said the IDS tower, where 3,500 people work, was evacuated because it is the most visible downtown building.

“We felt that a conservative approach given the national prominence of the building was prudent,” she said. “Our primary focus has been to take care of the people,” she said.

Other companies in the private sector chose to close for the day. Grabarski said the Downtown Council was constantly in touch with the business community and that neither entity suspected suspicious behavior that could prompt a downtown evacuation.

Bloomington’s Mall of America and St. Paul’s World Trade Center also were evacuated. The Federal Courthouse downtown remained open, although there was added security at the building’s perimeter and parking ramp.

Minneapolis police Chief Robert Olson said the department was in a “heightened state of alert,” and had increased police presence city-wide and at local schools, which remained open yesterday. Police took extra measures in investigating all suspicious telephone calls and leads coming into the department.

Police Inspector Rob Allen of the downtown command precinct said the department increased security at government facilities and at buildings downtown.

“We’ve not recommended (evacuating downtown buildings), but we’ve not not recommended it either,” he said.

Fire Chief Rocco Forte said all Minneapolis fire stations were fully staffed and, although he didn’t expect to use it, the department had an emergency plan.

The city also had readied its emergency communications center, although the mayor said it wouldn’t be staffed unless the city fell under threat. Colleen Moriarity, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the ECC is set up to keep open national communication, but mainly to ensure the city’s security. The mayor, City Council and other city officials would staff the center.

And while primary elections were cancelled in New York yesterday, Minneapolis’ proceeded as planned.

Sayles Belton said the four major mayoral candidates halted street campaigning yesterday.

University alumna and U.S. Bank employee Dana Lewis said that although the bank’s offices were open, menial day-to-day tasks were not the focus.

“Nobody’s working. Everybody’s watching T.V. in conference rooms … taking frequent cigarette breaks,” she said. “There’s all kinds of chaos. People don’t know where people are and you can’t contact anyone.”

City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes urged that the most important decision citizens could make Tuesday was to exercise their constitutional rights by voting in the primary elections.

Sayles Belton said she expects business as usual today at City Hall.

 

– Shira Kantor contributed to this report

 

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