BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — Members of the group “Black Lives Matter” showed up to a Bloomington City Council meeting Monday night, asking the city to stop pursuing criminal charges against them.

The city attorney said she’s looking at charging the leaders who organized a large protest at Mall of America on Dec. 20, 2014.

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Thousands of demonstrators filled the rotunda to protest the killings of black men at the hands of police. It shut down part of the mall for almost two hours.

More than 100 people showed up at the city council meeting Monday night and many of them participated in that protest. Their message: If you’re going to charge the 26 people who have already been charged, then you should charge us too.

From clergy members to protesters, members of Black Lives Matter stood in front of the city council with one message in mind.

“This is really at the end of the day about justice,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds with Black Lives Matter. “And about preventing what would become a miscarriage of justice if charges are filed against these young organizers.”

A civil rights attorney, Levy-Pounds said the city, police and the Mall of America overreacted on Dec. 20, 2014, and that the protest she and hundreds of others took part in was peaceful.

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“Instead of us being welcomed, we were met with police and riot gear,” Levy-Pounds said.

As supporters asked for charges to be dropped, City Attorney Sandra Johnson says the charges are based on a 1999 court ruling that the Mall of America is private property and not subject to protests without permission.

“If you don’t charge one group because you agree with its message, you’re discriminating against the next group of you decide to prosecute in that case. It really does tie your hands about any future prosecution,” Johnson said.

Johnson said it’s ultimately a jury’s job to determine guilt and in addition to trespassing, the city had to pay overtime costs for police.

“Right now the city’s overtime for police is over $25,000,” Johnson said.

“We know she intends to make an example out of them, and that really seems like retribution and retaliation for these young people using their voices to stand for justice. We’re not going to tolerate that,” Levy-Pounds said.

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A letter was sent to Johnson on Christmas Eve, asking her to drop the charges against the 26 people who have been charged so far. It was signed by 41 clergy members and faith leaders in the Bloomington community. No decision was made at Monday’s meeting as the case moves forward.

John Lauritsen