Several retailers in the Mall of America have temporarily closed after Black Lives Matter protesters descended on the shopping center to protest killing of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer last month.
“This demonstration is not authorized and is in clear violation of Mall of America policies,” a large screen in an atrium read. “All participants must leave Mall of America property immediately, which includes leaving MOA interior roadways and parking ramps. Those who fail to leave the property immediately will be subject to arrest.”
According to Twitter dispatches from the scene, entrances to the mall were blocked off and police have begun moving in. As of publication, protesters have converged on the Mall of America, the Minneapolis light rail system, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
We've just shut down the mall, the lightrail, AND the airport. Jamar won't celebrate Christmas this year, so we shut it ALL down. #BlackXmas
— Black Lives MPLS (@BlackLivesMpls) December 23, 2015
— North Star Post (@NStarPost) December 23, 2015
— Doualy Xaykaothao (@DoualyX) December 23, 2015
Mall officials have attempted to block the protest for several weeks. They issued a letter to Black Lives Matter Minneapolis asking the group to forgo its protest last week and sought a court order to block protesters from entering the mall earlier this week.
“This is yet another tactic of corporate America partnering with police to try to silence the people,” Black Lives Matter organizer Miski Noor told Minnesota Public Radio.
About two dozen people were arrested last year when more than 1,500 Black Lives Matter supporters demonstrated at the Mall of America to protest the decisions not to indict police officers charged with the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.
A similar protest took place on Black Friday in Chicago. Protesters outraged over the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer blocked customers from entering stores along the city’s high end shopping strip.
“We’re going to continue forward and we’re going to keep fighting for Jamar [Clark],” added Noor, the Black Lives Matter organizer.
Demonstrators are calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide if the officers who arrested Clark should be tried, instead of leaving the decision up to a grand jury. Many have criticized grand jury proceedings in cases of police brutality. They have returned no indictment decisions in the cases related to the deaths of unarmed black people in police custody including Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, among others.
The demonstrators are also demanding that videos of Clark’s arrest be released. Doing so might clear up the issue of whether or not Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, as some witnesses have claimed. So far, state investigators have refused to release videos from the incident, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Comparing the attempts by the owners of the privately-held mall to bar protesters from entering the shopping center or publicizing the demonstration on social media to “efforts to stymie the Civil Rights movement” the Minneapolis chapter of the Black Lives Matter protest vowed to go ahead with its demonstration in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Officials with the Mall of America sought legal approval to ban the demonstrations since the shopping center is private property.
Karen Janish, the Hennepin County Judge who ruled on the matter, denied the Mall’s request for a temporary restraining order against unnamed protesters — a move which rights’ groups said would be an affront to the freedom of speech. She said that her decision “should not be interpreted as authorizing or permitting others to engage in political demonstration at the Mall of America without the express permission of the Mall of America.”
While she didn’t see it fit to block unspecified individuals from the demonstration, Janish did ban three of the protest’s organizers from joining in the demonstration.
“The Mall of America has now taken the further outrageous and totalitarian step of attempting to control the speech of individuals,” Black Lives Matter said in a statement Monday, calling the mall’s demonstration ban a violation of free speech.