Police begin marching on protestors at the Mall of America. / AARON LAVINSKY
Bloomington authorities on Wednesday announced charges against 10 anti-police-brutality protesters who participated in a large-scale demonstration at the Mall of America last month.
That's in addition to the twenty-five demonstrators who were arrested on charges of trespassing at the peaceful, but unsanctioned rally that took over the mall’s rotunda for several hours on Dec. 20, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The 10 have been charged with crimes range from unlawful assembly and public nuisance to trespassing and disorderly conduct, according to Bloomington police deputy chief Rick Hart.
The protest was against recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men. The protesters insisted that the arrests were an attempt to undermine their right to demonstrate.
The group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said in a statement that it was “saddened” by the decision to “to misdirect public resources to protect corporate profits instead of supporting justice” for blacks.
But, Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson countered, citing a 1999 state Supreme Court decision that ruled the mall is private property where constitutional free speech protections don’t apply.
At the time, Johnson said that her office would also seek charges against those who orchestrated the protest.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Hart said:
"To ensure the safety and experience of its guests, Mall of America has had a longstanding policy in place that does not allow protests or demonstrations on their site. This policy has been consistently enforced. The Black Lives Matter group was informed that it did not have permission to gather and demonstrate in Mall of America. An alternative location was provided, and rally organizers declined to re-locate the demonstration."
Johnson at the time pointed out that while business owners would not be compensated for lost business, the city would also seek punitive damages from some of the protesters for out-of-pocket costs the city incurred while paying for overtime to deploy more officers at the mall, which has had a contentious history with protests.