Stores at the Mall of America rolled down their gates and kiosks packed up their products in anticipation of a demonstration on Wednesday by Black Lives Matter. Even Santa Claus was reportedly seen leaving his post at his sleigh on the busy shopping day before Christmas Eve.
About 100 demonstrators gathered in the mall’s rotunda Wednesday afternoon to call attention to the police shooting last month of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black Minneapolis man.
Mall security and Bloomington, Minn., police officers told demonstrators that they would be arrested and alerted shoppers that a section of the country’s biggest mall was under lockdown.
The demonstrators chanted, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” They then walked out of the mall and headed to a nearby light rail station.
Seeking to avoid a repeat of Dec. 23, 2014, when hundreds of demonstrators filled the rotunda chanting, “Black Lives Matter,” the Mall of America went to court to obtain a temporary restraining order against the organization.
In 2014, the group was protesting grand jury decisions not to charge police officers in the killings of black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York. The demonstration led to the temporary closure of the east side of the sprawling mall and resulted in lost retail sales.
“A concern that shoppers would stay away because of the demonstration led us to seek the restraining order,” said Susan Gaertner, attorney for Mall of America. “There’s no precedent in Minnesota for this type of order.”
Hennepin County District Judge Karen Janisch on Tuesday ruled that three leaders of Black Lives Matter could be barred from the protest, but said she didn’t have the power to prevent other demonstrators from showing up.
“It was a very good ruling for Mall of America. Demonstrating at the Mall of America is illegal. That’s the law of Minnesota,” Gaertner said, referring to a 1996 case, State v. Wicklund, in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that free speech protection as written in the state constitution “does not apply to a privately owned shopping center such as the Mall of America, even though [the mall] was developed in part with public financing.”
Gaertner could not persuade the judge to force Black Lives Matter organizers to remove social media posts urging supporters to join the demonstration at Mall of America. Janisch didn’t buy the argument that the posts supported illegal activity such as disturbing the peace and trespassing.
“If people choose to come and demonstrate that will be in open and direct defiance of the law of Minnesota,” Gaertner said.