MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — During one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year, Mall of America is caught up in a legal battle with protesters.
Monday afternoon, attorneys for the mall asked a judge for help in preventing members of Black Lives Matter from doing what the group did last December: Take over the rotunda with thousands of protesters. The group is planning a Wednesday rally inside the mall in response to the killing of Jamar Clark last month by a Minneapolis police officer.
The mall wants a restraining order that would bar the Black Lives Matter group from protesting there and that would also require the organizers to remove their social media posts on Facebook about the event. Hennepin County Judge Karen Janisch listened to the request and the argument by attorneys for the protesters, who say free speech is a 1st amendment right.
Unlike the streets of Minneapolis, Mall of America is private property and can ban demonstrations. Susan Gaertner is an attorney for the mall.
“This was widely publicized, that an unlawful demonstration should occur on Wednesday. All we are asking is for the same means to be used to say, ‘Hey this is against the law’ and we are calling it off. That’s all we are asking,” Gaertner said.
Four leaders of Black Lives Matter say they received letters on Friday, threatening arrests if Wednesday’s rally takes place as planned inside the mall. The letter asked that they delete Facebook event pages promoting the protest and replace them with posts saying it’s canceled.
“They are trying to force us to say something that they don’t really have the right to do. This is an attack on not only on Black Lives Matter, but everybody’s rights and the right to speak out,” Miski Noor with Black Lives Matter said.
“Mall of America really is the coliseum of capitalism, in our day and age symbols are important. MOA is the perfect symbol of how money and resources are mis-allocated in this state,” Kandace Montgomery with Black Lives Matter said.
Last December as the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining national momentum, more than 1,000 protesters filled Mall of America.
Jordan Kushner is an attorney who represents the protesters.
“They’ve got an amusement park, entertainment, they’ve got a rotunda. They are the place that people go to get their message across, but they want to keep that private for commercial purposes, for their own purposes,” Kushner said.
Judge Jahnisch gave each side 30 minutes to make their argument and then said that she would take the matter under advisement and make a decision as soon as possible. We’re told that Tuesday morning is the earliest that announcement would come.
Leaders of Black Lives Matter say they plan to gather at Mall of America at 1 p.m. Wednesday, no matter what the judge decides. They continue to call for the release of any videotape that shows what happened to Jamar Clark when he was shot and killed by Minneapolis police last month.
Last December, some protesters were arrested and then charged, but the charges were later dropped.