Holiday shoppers and travelers were back at it Thursday at the Mall of America and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, following Wednesday’s hours-long protests at both locations.
Activists with Black Lives Matter first demonstrated amid the shopping mall’s 500-plus stores and then took the light rail service from the Mall of America to the airport’s two terminals where they disrupted travelers.
With more than 500 stores and nearly 15,000 employees at this time of the year, the Mall of America planned to remain open until 6 p.m. Thursday. The protests on Wednesday took place on the east side of the complex near the rotunda, forcing about 80 stores to close for an hour while protesters were escorted off the property.
A statement released by the Mall of America said, “Mall of America Security along with Bloomington Police and numerous other law enforcement agencies responded quickly today to end an illegal protest by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis…Bloomington Police made four arrests; a fifth individual was arrested on unrelated charges.”
“Mall of America has a longstanding policy banning political demonstrations and protests on our private property. That policy is in place to protect the safety of all Mall of America guests, employees and tenants. The organizers of today’s protest were well aware of that policy. We respect the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. However, the courts have affirmed our right as private property owners to prohibit demonstrations on our property.”
Bloomington Police were unable to confirm the exact number of arrests stemming from the protests on Thursday.
In addition, “well over 100 protestors” then used the nearby light rail service to MSP, where they disrupted travelers from using the rail service, blocked a roadway to Terminal 1 causing major traffic headaches and temporarily suspended airport security clearances at Terminal 2, according to Patrick Hogan, director of public affairs and marketing. All of this led to missed flights and flight delays, though MSPIA could not estimate how many people were affected on what is the airport’s busiest travel day of the year. (On a typical day, 100,000 people pass through MSP.)
Wednesday’s subsequent traffic delays forced some to miss their flights and “even when the roads reopened,” drivers who were en route to and from the airport to drop off or pick up people has their work cut out for them at a time when they wanted to be spending time with friends and family.” Hogan said.
Noting that the airport does have a process for issuing permits to groups looking to plan a demonstration, Hogan said, “we work with groups to find a time, place or means to be heard without disrupting operations.” Referring to BLMM, he said, “If they plan to return, we would hope that they work with us to abide by the process that was established.”