Why the Mall of America Is Suing Black Lives Matter Protesters

Story Hinckley, Christian Science Monitor, December 21, 2015

The Minneapolis chapter of Black Lives Matter plans to hold a demonstration at the Mall of America Wednesday, protesting the Nov. 15 shooting death of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police.

Despite legal action from the Mall of America, Black Lives Matter organizers said in a statement Monday that the demonstration will proceed as planned unless their demands are met. The demands call for videos of Clark’s shooting to be released and for the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide whether the involved officers shooting should be tried, rather than leaving the decision up to a grand jury.

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With the protest planned for two days before Christmas, the Mall of American isn’t accepting Wednesday’s demonstration without a fight. Retailers can do as much as 30 percent of their sales in the last two weeks before Christmas.

The mall filed a request for a temporary restraining order last week, arguing that the mall is private property thus immune from unwanted protests. Mall of America sued eight activists with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, prohibiting the organizers from protesting at the mall and requiring them to delete promotional social media posts.

But Black Lives Matter Minneapolis says they’re not backing down.

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The organizers have no plans to call off the demonstration. And if approved by a judge, the eight activists could face jail time by refusing to cancel the demonstration on social media.

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And the Minneapolis coalition for Jamar Clark may have found the sweet spot for change: target places of revenue for the city. “…Black Lives Matter came to remind shoppers of the pain and tragic results of systemic racism in Minneapolis and around the country,” the organization said in a Facebook post Sunday.

Mel Reeves, a longtime community activist, urged protestors at the the Hennepin County Government Center plaza to continue their efforts in everyday locations so their message isn’t overlooked. While protesting alongside shoppers preoccupied with holiday preparations, “We should make them uncomfortable as hell,” said Reeves.

Black Lives Matter protesters in Chicago followed a similar approach last month on Black Friday. Hundreds of protestors gathered on Chicago’s Michigan Ave., also known as the Magnificent Mile, to protest the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald last year by a Chicago office Jason Van Dyke, while blocking customers from entering stores on one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Protestors called for the resignation of city officials, largely Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who allegedly hid video of the shooting for over a year.

“I would like to see Michigan Avenue stores take a big hit tomorrow business-wise, and people are going to say, ‘How can you say that? It impacts the whole city?’ So does murder,” Fr. Michael Pfleger, one of the organizers of the Chicago protest, told WGN TV on Thanksgiving. “Business as usual can’t go on while our children are dying.”

The Chicago Tribune reported sales on Magnificent Mile down 25 to 50 percent on Black Friday because of the protests, with many shoppers staying home or delaying their shopping trips to avoid a potentially dangerous riot. Mayor Emanuel didn’t cite the Black Friday protests as a direct reason for requesting McCarthy’s resignation a week later, but he said the superintendent is only as “effective as the trust that the community” places in him.

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