The Minneapolis NAACP on Thursday called for a boycott of the Mall of America in response to an incident last weekend in which security guards restrained a 14-year-old girl.
Isabella Brown was shopping with friends for shoes on Saturday when mall security guards asked her to leave because she was violating the shopping center’s curfew policy, said her mother, Pastor Marea Perry.
As the teen attempted to make change for bus fare in the mall’s transit hub, four security guards restrained her face down on the floor as she screamed for them to get off her back.
A passer-by videotaped the incident, which the NAACP posted on its Facebook page.
In a statement, the mall said, “As a matter of policy, we are not able to comment on the specifics of this situation.” It cited its parental escort policy and said that people breaking curfew are asked to leave and given multiple opportunities to comply. If they refuse, they are subject to arrest, the statement said.
Perry said her daughter did nothing to provoke the security guards’ actions. “I was sick to my stomach when I watched the video,” she said during Thursday’s news conference at Minneapolis City Hall. “She was targeted because she was black.”
Community and religious leaders came to support Brown and her family. Many of them, including Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, asked people of color to boycott the mall because of what she called security’s racial profiling of visitors.
Levy-Pounds also said that the mall owes Brown a public apology, that the security guards involved should be fired and that mall security workers should receive racial sensitivity training.
The mall has been the site of two high-profile protests by Black Lives Matter and its supporters, one on Dec. 20, 2014, and another last week on Dec. 23.
A mall spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment about a boycott.
“We will not tolerate abuse of children at the hands of MOA security or members of law enforcement,” Levy-Pounds said. “What happened to Isabella was completely unwarranted, unnecessary and traumatic.”
Perry said Bloomington police officers were involved in the incident, but Deputy Chief Mike Hartley said only security guards were involved in restraining the teen. Perry said what happened to her daughter was even more painful because her family has relatives in law enforcement.
The mall’s statement said its security guards are highly trained and consistently perform in a professional manner to protect the safety of mall guests, tenants and employees. The mall implemented the parental escort policy in 1996 and said “it has been consistently and fairly enforced ever since.”
The policy was in effect when Saturday’s incident occurred. Children younger than 16 aren’t allowed in the mall from 4 p.m. until closing without an adult escort. More than 2,700 young people were denied entry to the mall that day because they were underage or didn’t have valid ID, the mall said.
Around 5 p.m., mall security guards asked Brown to leave. She then walked around the train station asking for change for a $20 bill, Perry said.
As the guards restrained her, Brown asked to call her mother. The teen said they denied her request.
Perry eventually made it to the mall and discussed her daughter’s restraint with a security supervisor. She said that she didn’t receive satisfactory answers and that the supervisor refused to show her mall footage of the incident.
“My daughter wasn’t resisting,” she said. “She was crying in pain. She was afraid and scared.”
The family declined to give some details of the incident, saying it is considering legal options. Brown was not cited or charged with a crime.
Pastor Danny Givens, clergy liaison for Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, said he believes the guards’ use of restraint on the teen was a result of recent Black Lives Matter protests at the mall.
“We won’t tolerate this kind of malicious treatment of African-Americans,” he said. “We won’t patronize the mall. We won’t spend our money there.”
What happened to Brown shows that black children “don’t get to be children” in Minnesota, said Michael McDowell, a leader with Black Lives Matter. They are being harassed by the people “who are supposed to protect and serve us,” he said.
Rashad Turner of Black Lives Matter St. Paul talked about his own 7-year-old daughter and said watching the video of Brown brought tears to his eyes. “I can’t imagine her not being safe at the mall,” he said.
Brown’s friend and basketball teammate, Zarina Sementelli, said her team and the entire community has been affected. “Having a badge doesn’t give you the right to abuse children,” she said.
Perry said the incident could have ended tragically because Brown has asthma and four security guards were holding her down. “She lost her humanity, dignity and right to equal treatment.” she said. “I wouldn’t want any other parent to have to experience what happened to her.”