BLOOMINGTON (WCCO) — In the next few days, the Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson expects to file criminal charges against the organizers of Saturday’s protest at Mall of America.
The mall went into a partial shutdown for about two hours as thousands of protesters filled the rotunda on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The group, “Black Lives Matter” chose the mall for its high visibility, but was warned repeatedly that it was private property.
Mall officials are reportedly gathering estimates of how much money the stores lost on Saturday.
Combined with the amount of overtime put in by police, Johnson said the numbers will be “staggering,” and she wants the protest organizers to pay.
The moment the chanting started Saturday, officers locked down about 80 stores and several mall entrances. In and around the rotunda, business came to a halt for about two hours.
Nate Bash works at one store near the rotunda, which he didn’t want us to name.
“You had people yelling and screaming inside the mall that wanted out and you had people yelling and screaming outside the mall that wanted in,” he said. “I would say the mall was less than half as busy as it should have been considering what day it was.”
“This was a powder keg just waiting for a match,” said Johnson.
The City Attorney is now building criminal cases against the protest organizers. She said she’ll try to get restitution for money lost by the mall, the city and police agencies that came from as far away as Hastings and Red Wing.
“The main perpetrators are those who continued on their Facebook site to invite people illegally to the Mall of America,” she said.
Police are looking at the group’s social media posts, as well as video from inside the mall.
“Who led that march through the Mall of America?” said Johnson. “If we can identify those people who were inciting others to continue with this illegal activity, we can consider charges against them too.”
Lena K. Gardner of the group “Black Lives Matter” said several groups, including several faith leaders, took part in organizing Saturday’s protest.
Gardner said the financial losses are not the fault of protesters.
“We came to sing carols and raise awareness,” she said, “and the Bloomington police are the ones who shut down the mall, not us.”
Gardner compared it to December of last year, when thousands gathered in the rotunda to sing a song (http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/video/10942413-thousands-gather-to-honor-zach-sobiech/) written by a young man who died of cancer, Zach Sobiech.
She said that group was raising awareness of cancer, and the mall allowed it. She thinks the mall should’ve been as welcoming to Saturday’s group and its message.
No injuries or property damage were reported from Saturday’s protest.