By David Bailey
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Protesters angered by the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis last month plan to demonstrate at the Mall of America on Wednesday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, despite a judge’s warning that the property’s owners could legally block the action.
This marks the second consecutive year that the loosely organized Black Lives Matter movement, which grew out of protests over police killings in Ferguson, Missouri, New York and other cities, has planned a protest at one of the largest shopping malls in North America near the peak of the holiday season.
“Restraining order or not, on the day before Christmas Eve, protesters will assemble at the Mall of America; there will be cameras; and millions will be watching,” the group said in a Facebook post late Tuesday. “What happens next will tell us volumes about who we are as a society.”
Black Lives Matter demonstrators camped outside a Minneapolis police station for nearly three weeks after a police officer shot Jamar Clark, 24, on Nov. 15. The death of Clark, who was unarmed, added fuel to a heated debate over race and justice in the United States.
Last year just before Christmas, more than 1,500 Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating against grand jury decisions not to charge police officers in the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and New York shut down part of the Mall of America.
The protests, days after rioting and arson in Ferguson, resulted in the arrests of about two dozen people, mostly for trespassing and failure to disperse.
The night before this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York, members of the group marched through Macy’s Herald Square flagship store to show solidarity with the Minneapolis chapter.
Officials with the Mall of America, located in a suburb of Minneapolis, have said they can ban demonstrations on private property as allowed under the law. This week they asked a judge to bar the group, its leaders and others from protesting and require it to delete social media posts advertising the demonstration.
However, Hennepin County Judge Karen Janisch denied a broad temporary restraining order, only barring three leaders of the group from the protest. She warned that the order, which did not extend to the group itself or unnamed people, “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.”
Bloomington police and mall officials declined to comment on Wednesday. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said on Wednesday that 30 state patrol officers would be present in uniform as a backup reserve at the request of Bloomington police.
In Monday’s hearing, mall attorney Susan Gaertner said she sought the court order because of the group’s choice of forum, not the content of its message.
Attorney Jordan Kushner, who represented the group’s leaders Miski Noor, Kandace Montgomery and Michael McDowell, said the mall could remove demonstrators but could not tell them what they may say.
Ahead of the protest, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis on Twitter asked supporters to donate for bail, citing the mall’s “history of overreaction to peaceful events.”
(Reporting by David Bailey; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Scott Malone and James Dalgleish)
Photo: Members of the group Black Lives Matter march to city hall during a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Craig Lassig