A group of activists are on a collision course with the Mall of America over a planned protest at the Twin Cities mega mall on the last shopping Saturday before Christmas.
Around 2,000 Black Lives Matter Minneapolis protesters are expected to attend the 2 p.m. demonstration at Mall of America, which said it will be beefing up security and warned protesters that they face arrest and a year-long ban from the shopping center.
The protest group meanwhile has accused the mall of "intimidation tactics" after it sent letters to organizers' homes and claim police visited some members in a bid to track down the ringleaders.
The protest has the potential to disrupt what is expected to be a major shopping day at the mall, which is expected to see bumper numbers as Minnesotans do their late Christmas shopping, according to FOX 9.
Mall of America's response
In a statement issued to BringMeTheNews, Mall of America confirmed anyone taking part in an organized protest on mall grounds Saturday could be subject to police action.
"We respect the right to free speech, but Mall of America is private property and not a forum for protests, demonstrations or public debates," the Mall said.
"We have consistently and continually prohibited all manner of groups – regardless of cause or message – from protesting and demonstrating on our property."
It continued: "Any attempts by groups to conduct a protest is a violation of our policies and would subject a group to removal from the property and potential arrest by the City of Bloomington police, in addition to exclusion from Mall of America for one year."
Protesters 'will not be silenced'
The Black Lives Matter movement was created in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, and has been particularly active in recent months following widespread protests over the deaths at the hands of police of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York.
Earlier this month, a group of protesters chanting "black lives matter" closed down Interstate-35W in Minneapolis as they carried out a protest march to City Hall.
In its letter to protesters (printed below), The Mall of America suggests they use public space on the Alpha Business Center parking lot opposite the mall.
But this has not gone down well with protesters, who have told those planning to attend the protest to bring no signs with them so they can enter the mall unimpeded.
A comment on the group's Facebook page says:
We are saddened that these institutions have chosen to use their resources to intimidate and threaten us, instead of supporting the nationwide movement declaring that #BlackLivesMatter; repeating a common pattern of corporations valuing profits over people.
We have included the initial letter that Mall of America's management sent to those they consider the organizers of the event. The letter also included photos of an unpaved parking lot near Mall of America. This is the space to which the City of Bloomington Police and Mall of America's management wish to move our gathering; a space where we will not be seen or heard.
The attempt to relegate us to an unpaved parking lot is not an act of or gesture of support. It is an act of minimization. Mall of America's management has shown us they are not interested in listening to Black voices.
We want to make it clear to the public that we will not be intimidated and we will not be silenced. We ask you to join us to expose the crises our communities face every day.