BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Protesters from the group Black Lives Matter shut down part of the Mall of America Saturday afternoon on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
The protesters are upset about recent decisions clearing white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York.
Nearly 3,000 people say they planned to attend the event, according to the Facebook page of Black Lives Matter.
Protesters gathered in the rotunda and began several rounds of chants including, “No justice, no shopping,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “While you’re on your shopping spree, black people can’t breathe.”
Quickly, the mall went into partial lockdown, closing its north and east entrances and locking about 80 stores, trapping some customers inside. All stores are now reopened.
The mall put up a statement on a video screen warning protesters of the possibility of arrest and police assembled wearing helmets.
Around 3 p.m., after a third and final warning, most protesters moved outside or dispersed peaceably.
Bloomington police arrested or ticketed about two dozen people for trespassing, failure to disperse or disorderly conduct. The city attorney said that staff members were taking video of the protests in an attempt to identify and prosecute leaders.
Organizers say the disruption is important to bring attention to their cause and that scheduling the protest on one of the largest shopping days of the year was purposeful.
“The message we’re trying to say is that no longer can business as usual continue,” one organizer said. “Today is one of the biggest shopping days in America, and Mall of America, as we see it, is the epitome of capitalism and a huge part of the problem. It’s not just that black folks are dying; there’re people who profit off of that.”
The scene outside
Eventually, most of the protesters made their way outside to the east parking ramps between Sears and L.L. Bean.
Many police and State Patrol squads were stationed along the ramps, to ensure protesters did not block traffic or the light rail.
After about 45 minutes things moved outside to the east entrance, between the mall and parking ramp, with about 200 people gathering with chants and cheers.
Mall security guards stood on either side, trying to contain the protest, as shoppers were redirected to other entrances.
MOA officials ‘disappointed’
MOA officials released a statement Saturday saying they are “extremely disappointed” that organizers of the protest decided to rally at the mall despite being told it was against mall policy.
The statement says: “It’s clear from their actions that these political activists were more concerned about making a political statement and creating a media event than they were about the safety of others, who came to Mall of America for an afternoon of shopping and family entertainment.”
The MOA protest is one of several being held across the country.
A demonstration in Milwaukee Friday night ended with at least 74 arrests. And also on Saturday, about 100 protesters from Ferguson, Missouri, joined activists in Cleveland, where a 12-year-old boy was killed by police, holding what turned out to be a toy air gun. Protests were also scheduled for New York City, Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities.
The Twin Cities group shutdown portions of Interstate 35W earlier this month when they marched to Minneapolis City Hall.
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