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Black Lives Matter files motions to dismiss Mall of America protest charges

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Lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss charges against 36 people involved in the Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America in December.

In a press release, attorney Jordan Kushner, who represents 10 out of the 11 so-called "ringleaders" charged following the peaceful demonstration, said that proceeding with charges would be a waste of taxpayer funds.

"The charges against the activists that the City of Bloomington has singled out for persecution are replete with violations of their constitutional rights to free speech and are unsupported by evidence," he said.

The protest, held in response to controversial decisions not to indict police officers who killed Michael Johnson in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, attracted more than 2,000 people and caused part of the mall to shut down.

Michael McDowell, one of the defendants, described the charges as "outrageous" and show a "clear overreaction" from Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson, local police and the megamall itself.

The Star Tribune reports that one of the targets for the Black Lives Matter legal team is the overturning of a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling from 1999 that designated the Mall of America as private property.

They argue that the collaboration between the Mall, police and the City of Bloomington before, during and after the protest shows they have an "intertwined" relationship and that the Mall was "acting as a quasi-governmental actor," adding that it has relied on the 1999 decision to control access to its premises.

It's been previously reported that organizational meetings prior to the protest had been attended by plain-clothed police officers, some of whom signed up to receive text updates from the demonstration's leaders, while the legal brief filed by the protestors' attorneys said the City Attorney directed the Mall to investigate organizers on social media prior to the protest.

Those involved have been hit with charges that include unlawful assembly, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.

FOX 9 reports that McDowell and Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP who is one of those charged over the protest, highlighted the discrepancy in the way the Mall handled the Black Lives Matter protest compared to a memorial for cancer victim Zach Sobiech nine days earlier, which twice as many people attended.

The next court hearing for the 36 is set for August 14. The Star Tribune notes the City of Bloomington has until July 15 to file a response to the latest motions, but wants an extension to July 30.

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