Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson on Tuesday responded to an open letter from faith leaders with a letter of her own.
Praising their motives but refusing their demands, she encouraged ministers to use their places of worship "as meeting places where social injustices can be identified and discussed along with strategies for conquering those injustices." But she didn't give ground on the faith leaders' demand to cease prosecution of 11 protesters charged after a Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Mall of America on Dec. 20.
"While I respect your point of view on the issues of social and racial injustice, I must decline your proposed remedy," Johnson wrote. "I will continue to uphold the law — without fear or favor."
More than 100 pastors, theologians and other faith leaders in the Twin Cities sent an open letter to Johnson on Monday, asking her to direct her energy toward fighting racial disparity, rather than prosecuting leaders of a peaceful protest.
Black Lives Matter representatives did not respond to phone messages and e-mails Tuesday. But one of the signers of the faith leaders' letter said she and several others from her congregation plan to appear in support of the protesters at their first court hearing on March 10.
"We've rearranged our meetings in order to be at the hearing," said the Rev. Sarah Campbell of Mayflower United Church of Christ in Minneapolis.
Johnson's letter explained her reasons for pressing charges against the demonstrators.
"First and foremost, the criminal justice system must look at conduct, not the content of the message behind the illegal conduct," it said. "To approach protest or demonstration cases any other way would result in viewpoint discrimination based on the popularity of the message with the prosecutor and with the community.
"You use a lovely phrase in your letter and I invite you to share the goal therein with those in public office who might facilitate the changes you seek rather than to demand that my office dismiss criminal charges," she wrote. "The phrase is 'We found that we were able to connect across lines of race and background because we share the common thread of humanity, faith and a desire that all God's children might live in a just and equitable society.'
"Your challenge is to engage the larger community in a discussion about the injustices you see and the field of possible solutions," she wrote. "Think big about this — have a dream and see it to fulfillment."