Thirty Activists Arrested as Black Lives Matter Demos Cause Holiday Travel Chaos

Regina F. Graham, Daily Mail, December 24, 2015

Thirty people have been arrested after hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted holiday travel and shopping in several states Wednesday with protests blocking access roads to airports and shutting down the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Police are out in full force today to ensure smooth Christmas Eve travel a day after the demonstrations led to disruptions.

Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said Thursday that there’s no reason to believe there will be a repeat of protests that led to traffic backups and security checkpoint shutdowns at a secondary terminal Wednesday.

He says eight people were arrested at the airport during the protest that began at the nearby Mall of America. Hogan says six people were cited on trespass charges and released while two were taken into custody on gross misdemeanor charges. There were four protest-related arrests at the mall.

In southern California, a group of protesters shut down the southbound 405 Freeway in Inglewood around 2pm Wednesday to block traffic on the usually traffic clogged highway.

The California Highway Patrol said the group of nine was traveling in three vehicles and stopped near Century Boulevard and Manchester Avenue.

Once stopped, the protesters exited their cars and spray painted the road with slogans and the names of African American victims killed by law enforcement in recent years, KABC reported.

Four women, three men and two male juveniles were arrested by CHP officers and traffic began moving again once the scene was cleared by 3.30pm.

Those arrested in the incident face felony charges of vandalism and conspiracy to block the freeways.

In northern California, CHP officers arrested nine women after they forced an exit ramp on US Highway 101 leading to the San Francisco International Airport to close.

The activists locked arms as some held signs demanding ‘Justice for Mario Woods,’ a 24-year-old African American man killed by San Francisco police on December 2.

The women were to taken to San Mateo County Jail on suspicion of public nuisance, obstructing the freeway, unlawful assembly on a freeway and false imprisonment for imprisoning stuck drivers in their cars, according to the CHP.

In likely the biggest protest scene in the US Wednesday, hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters descended on the Mall of America and Minnesota’s main airport, staging a rally that caused holiday travel chaos.

Eight protesters were arrested at Minneapolis–St Paul International Airport after blocking access to one of two terminals and causing major backups on nearby roads, police say.

Terminal two checkpoints for Southwest and Sun Country airlines were temporarily closed for 45 minutes to prevent protesters from gaining access to the secure areas inside of the busy airport, WCCO reported.

Some protesters took a light-rail train to the airport from the Mall of America, where protesters started the Black Lives Matter rally to bring attention to a recent police shooting of a black man in Minneapolis.

Gov Mark Dayton said the moving protest was creating a ‘very, very dangerous situation’, and he urged protesters to stop blocking access to part of the airport.

The governor questioned the need for such a demonstration, noting that federal and state investigations are ongoing into the death of Jamal Clark, who was shot by Minneapolis Police responding to an assault complaint.

Dayton said releasing video of officers’ altercation with Clark could jeopardize the investigations.

About 500 protesters initially gathered at the Mall of America early Wednesday afternoon, then abruptly walked out while chanting, ‘What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!’

Protesters peacefully went to a nearby light-rail train station that allowed quick access to the airport a few miles away.

Dozens of stores closed their gates, kiosks were covered and even Santa left his sleigh shortly before protesters gathered at the massive shopping district on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Numerous signs were posted on mall property, saying no protests were allowed–including a long message on a screen in a central rotunda between two Christmas trees.

The mall told abc news: ‘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.’

Police quickly closed the mall’s main entrances and threatened arrests.

A similar demonstration last December drew hundreds of demonstrators angry over the absence of charges following the police killings of unarmed black men in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri. Stores in the mall had to close, and dozens of people were arrested.

The massive retail center in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington houses an amusement park and more than 500 shops spread across four floors, attracting shoppers from around the globe.

Neither mall officials nor Bloomington Police said what security measures they put in place to prepare for the protest, though special event staff members were searching bags and stationed at every mall entrance.

Security guards cordoned off parts of the central rotunda, and officers from several cities patrolled inside.

The mall sought a court order blocking the planned protest. A judge on Tuesday barred three organizers from attending the demonstration, but said she didn’t have the power to block unidentified protesters associated with Black Lives Matter–or the movement as a whole–from showing up.

Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Denis Otterness confirmed officers would be at the mall, but declined to discuss their plans for handling the protest.

‘Our number one priority is the safety of everybody out at the Mall of America today,’ he said Wednesday morning.

Dayton also told reporters early Wednesday that 30 Minnesota State Patrol officers would be on the scene at the local police department’s request.

He said he sympathized with protesters’ concerns, but stressed that the mall was private property.

{snip}

The nationwide protests Wednesday were part of the ‘Black Xmas’ demonstrations in response to what protesters are calling an epidemic of police brutality.

According to CNN, the activists accuse police agencies nationwide of bias against the black community.

‘Today, on one of the busiest days of the holiday season, black communities across the United States are taking brave actions to impede the flow of goods and commerce with peaceful protests to call for an immediate overhaul of the justice system both locally and nationally that will demand accountability for police, removal of grand juries in cases involving police shootings, an immediate halt to militarized police units and weapons, and extensive review of racialized police practices in black neighborhoods,’ the group said in a statement.

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