On Saturday, December 20, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis held a protest in the rotunda of the Mall of America in suburban Bloomington, Minnesota. The action was a continuation of Twin Cities participation in a series of nationwide protests against police killings of African American men, galvanized by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
The Mall of America (MOA) attempted to prevent the event by telling organizers that mall policy does not allow protests of any kind. Threats of arrest were sent to organizers and protesters if the protest went ahead as scheduled. The mall is private property, and MOA officials recommended a vacant lot adjacent to the mall for the event.
But the action unfolded as planned. And for a few hours on Saturday, a peaceful group of protesters interrupted holiday shopping to draw attention to inequality and the abuse of police power. Twenty-five people were arrested; the Mall of America and the city of Bloomington intend to “prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
By some counts up to 3,000 people attended.
Saturday was chosen because of its high traffic at the mall. The final Saturday before Christmas, officials said, is the busiest shopping day in December.
The rotunda of the Mall of America is adjacent to the mall’s Nickelodeon Universe theme park.
Also off the rotunda is the American Girl store. These two security guards were watching the store on the mall’s second floor. It was a different scene on the first.
Shoppers gathered on the upper levels around the rotunda to watch. Many joined in the protest. Police and security were working to keep everyone back from the rails.
About 20 minutes after the protest officially kicked off, Mall of America announced on the loud-speaker that the protest was in violation of mall policy and that all participants must leave. The message also appeared on a large monitor over the rotunda.
After the primary warning from the mall, stores began closing–with customers inside unable to leave–and the police and security formed lines block others from joining or leaving the protest.
Songs and chorus chants were heard throughout the mall—with shoppers looking on—like, “Black people cannot breathe while you have a shopping spree.”
Employees from shops near the rotunda came out to watch the protest unfold. These mall employees participated in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protest as the police line moved forward.
A final warning was issued on the overheard speaker, as well as on the screen. After this announcement, police and security began to move the crowd of protesters out of the building.
Despite police and security blocking late-comers from joining the protest in the rotunda, many remained behind police lines, joining in the protest songs and chants.
Eventually, a final warning was issued to protesters, ordering them all to evacuate the premises.
Protesters and organizers moved the action out of the building.
Anyone remaining, the warning said, would be arrested.
Bloomington police report that 25 individuals were arrested over the course of the few hours that the protest was underway.
The mall did officially close its doors about an hour after the protest began. When it was announced, cheers were heard, as well as a chorus of “We have won.”
The mall was cleared as the protest moved to the streets outside the door. As Black Lives Matter organizers brought the day’s events to an official close, they led attendees in one final chant: “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
For their part, the Mall of America is “extremely disappointed” that Black Lives Matter decided to hold the protest despite their warnings of arrest.