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Black Lives Matter Protest Ends Quickly At Mall Of America

By David Bailey

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (Reuters) – A demonstration at the Mall of America on Wednesday by Black Lives Matter protesters angered by the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis last month was swiftly broken up on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

After police and mall security dispersed the gathering, the protesters took a light rail train to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport where they briefly shut down roadways to both terminals, an airport spokesman said.

Inside Terminal 2, security checkpoints were briefly shut down to prevent protesters from moving into secure areas of the airport, the second busiest in the Midwest after Chicago’s O’Hare.

Earlier, about 100 people had started to gather at the mall, one of the largest in North America, despite a judge’s warning that the property’s owners could legally block the protest.

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, has added fuel to an already heated debate over race and justice in the United States following several such killings across the nation in the past year.

“It’s been sleepless nights,” Jamar’s cousin, Alexander Clark, told Reuters at the mall demonstration just before police took him into custody, adding: “We are here for justice for my cousin.” It was not immediately clear whether Clark had been formally arrested.

Police and mall security quickly moved in, warning any who did not leave would be arrested for violating mall policy against demonstrations and alerting shoppers that that area of the mall was on lockdown. Police forced people in the protest area outside into a light snow.

People also lined the tiers on the three floors above the protest, although it was not clear whether they were involved. Some stores locked their doors ahead of the demonstration.

Wednesday’s short protest marked the second consecutive year that the loosely organized movement, which grew out of protests over police killings in Ferguson, Missouri, New York and other cities, had demonstrated near the peak of the holiday season.

Black Lives Matter officials had promised to assemble at the mall “restraining order or not” and said in a Facebook post late Tuesday, “What happens next will tell us volumes about who we are as a society.”

Just before last 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 same mall.

The protest, 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, had said they could 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 seen as authorization to protest without the mall’s permission.

(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

Black Lives Matter To Protest At Mall Of America Again Despite Warning

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

Homeland Security Chief Warns Mall Shoppers On Threat, Pleads For Funding

By Christi Parsons and Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s top Homeland Security official on Sunday warned Americans to be “particularly careful” after terrorist threats against the Mall of America and other shopping centers, and seized the opportunity to call on Congress not to let his department’s funding expire this week.

The warnings from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson followed the release of a video from the al-Shabab terrorist group over the weekend that urged militants to attack American, Canadian and British shopping centers, including the mega-mall near Minneapolis. Al-Shabab is responsible for the 2013 attack on a Kenyan mall that left 67 people dead.

“If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they’ve got to be particularly careful,” Johnson told CNN’s Gloria Borgia.

“Any time a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously,” he said. “So, through our intelligence bulletins, through working with state and local law enforcement, through working with the FBI, we take this kind of thing very seriously.”

But several U.S. officials said they had no other reason to believe there was an actual plot unfolding against any shopping centers in the U.S. One intelligence official said there was no evidence that the video represented anything more than a call to action, and that similar videos in the past had not been linked to subsequent attacks. But they said the prospect of violence from lone actors — unattached to a terrorist group but open to inspiration via the Internet — was a continuing concern.

Even before the latest threat, the administration was on high alert over the possibility that Homeland Security’s funding would dry up Saturday. Johnson played up both issues during appearances on several Sunday talk shows.

Al-Shabab’s video specifically mentioned the Mall of America and gave its GPS coordinates, not far from Minneapolis’ large Somali community. It appeared to be an explicit exhortation from the Somali-based terrorists to disaffected expatriates in Minnesota.

The Mall of America issued a statement in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, including the Justice Department and the Bloomington, Minn., Police Department.

“At this time there is no credible threat associated with Mall of America,” the statement said. “We take all security concerns seriously and have responded appropriately. Enhanced security measures … have been implemented and all information is being monitored.”

Asked whether foot traffic seemed any lighter Sunday, Mall of America spokeswoman Julie Hansen said in an email, “I did not notice a difference.”

Congress is at an impasse on funding Homeland Security, with most Republicans demanding that any funding bill nullify Obama’s pending executive actions to temporarily shield as many as 5 million immigrants in the country illegally from deportation, as well as those protected by a 2012 program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Most Democrats stand by the president’s immigration actions, and they have enough votes in the Senate to block the measure. When Congress returns from its holiday break Monday, the Senate will hold a fourth procedural vote on the bill, which has passed the House. Republican aides would not discuss how either chamber would proceed if, as expected, Democrats block it again.

Republicans are divided over the best way to challenge Obama’s actions. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argued Sunday that it would be better to challenge the immigration measures in court, warning colleagues of the pitfalls of using national security to make a political point.

A federal judge in Texas imposed a temporary injunction against the immigration actions last week. The Justice Department is preparing to request an emergency stay of that injunction so the administration can implement its plans. White House officials say they expect the request to be filed by Monday.

Graham said he agreed with U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who ruled in a lawsuit brought by 26 states, and hoped his party would focus on that case as a way to wage the immigration fight.

“If we don’t fund the Department of Homeland Security, we’ll get blamed as a party. And to anyone who is watching the world as it is, I’ve never seen more terrorist organizations with more safe havens, with more money, with more capability to strike the homeland today,” Graham told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. “And that’s a direct result of a failed foreign policy by President Obama. And the worst thing to do is add gasoline to the fire by having the Republican Party defund the Department of Homeland Security.”

Johnson used the al-Shabab threats to illustrate a growing dynamic among competing terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, which are vying for recruits and targeting citizens in the West, he said.

“These groups are relying more and more on independent actors to become inspired, drawn to the cause … on their own, through their effective use of the Internet,” Johnson told CNN. “That’s why it’s critical that we work in the communities where these folks might be able to recruit to develop a counternarrative.”

The threats also show “why I need a budget,” he said. If funding isn’t approved by Friday, Johnson said, he’ll have to furlough about 80 percent of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s workers. Law enforcement and other crucial Homeland Security officials will simply have to work without pay, he said.

“It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’ inability to fund Homeland Security in these challenging times,” Johnson said.

He complained of a “frustrating” round of finger-pointing during his conversations on Capitol Hill.

“When I go to the Senate, they say, ‘It’s not us, it’s the House, go over to the House side and talk to them,’ ” Johnson said. “I go to the House and they say, ‘We passed our bill, it’s the Senate.’ ”

Johnson said that marketing by terrorists was entering a new phase in which groups such as Islamic State, al-Shabab and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula are issuing public directions for individual actors to carry out attacks in their homelands.

“In my judgment, that represents a totally new environment,” Johnson said on CBS. “And we have to deal with it in a new and different way that involves a whole-of-government approach and involves working with state and local law enforcement, working with the community, working with community leaders to hopefully persuade people who might be inclined in this direction to turn away from violence.”

Threat or no threat, shoppers flocked to malls Sunday, including the sprawling Glendale Galleria, near Los Angeles. Families pushed strollers, couples held hands, drivers fought for precious parking spaces. Most patrons said they were unaware of, or unfazed by, al-Shabab’s message.

“Personally, I don’t live in fear. I’m tired of that,” said Tatiana Arrue, 22, a corporate recruiter from Downey, Calif. “The thought of going to a mall and possibly dying, well, if that’s how I’m going to go, that’s how I’m going to go. I’m tired of living in fear.”

Another customer read a copy of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying while he waited for his steaming pizza to cool. He was unaware of the threat but said he would have come to the mall anyway.

“It doesn’t bother me,” said the man, who declined to give his name for an article about terrorism. “I don’t think people are sitting around planning to shoot up a mall and waiting for somebody to tell them to do it.”
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Los Angeles Times staff writers Stuart Pfeifer and Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons