The Mall of America is back in business Saturday evening after an afternoon protest caused mall officials to close down major portions of the shopping center for roughly three hours.
An estimated 3,000 "Black Lives Matter" demonstrators took over the rotunda of the mall at about 2 p.m., chanting "no justice, no peace" and "hands up, don't shoot," despite repeated warnings from mall officials and Bloomington police that they could be arrested if they followed through with the demonstration.
The crowd, which included people of different races and ages, was protesting recent incidents of what they described as police brutality in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, NY, where white police officers killed suspects who were black.
The protesters marched out of the mall after about 45 minutes and continued to demonstrate outside on the east side of the mall.
A small group of protesters remained in the mall some 90 minutes later, and police ended up arresting 25 people when they would not leave, according to KSTP.
The east entrances and some areas of the mall remained closed until about 5 p.m. before reopening to shoppers.
Mall officials released a statement late Saturday afternoon, which read in part:
We are extremely disappointed that organizers of Black Lives Matter protest chose to ignore our stated policy and repeated reminders that political protests and demonstrations are not allowed on Mall of America property. It’s clear from their actions that these political activists were more concerned about making a political statement and creating a media event than they were about the safety of others, who came to Mall of America for an afternoon of shopping and family entertainment.
For the safety of our shoppers and tenants we temporarily closed stores on the east side of Mall of America, as law enforcement and Mall Security methodically worked to clear protesters from the Mall. All stores are now reopened. While we wish we could have avoided the inconvenience and disruption for our guests and stores, safety was our top priority.
We have 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. The organizers of today’s protest were well aware of that policy and the potential consequences for willfully violating that policy.
While we respect the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, those rights do not trump our right as private property owners to prohibit that behavior on our property – a position that courts have affirmed – nor our responsibility to provide a safe environment for other Mall of America guests.
Before the scheduled 2 p.m. protest, security staff searched the bags and shoppers as they entered the mall, FOX9 reported.
The Star Tribune says the mall was adamant that the Minneapolis chapter of the national Black Lives Matter movement had no right to demonstrate on private property and had urged them to use the Alpha Business Center lot adjacent to the mall to make their voices heard.
But organizers of the protest proceeded, gaining the support of Minneapolis City Council members Alondra Cano and Cam Gordon, who have written to Mall of America on the group's behalf on its Facebook page.
"I repeat, the goal is to have a peaceful demonstration - and to highlight the need to stop the senseless violence against the African American community and other communities of color," Cano says. "Please do not threaten, intimidate or disrespect the freedom of speech these tax paying residents are planning to exercise this Saturday."
The Black Lives Matter movement has been particularly active following recent decisions not to indict police who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner in Ferguson and New York respectively. Earlier this month they closed down I-35W for an hour as they carried out a march to Minneapolis City Hall.
According to the LA Times, "Super Saturday" is on track to become the biggest shopping day of the year, even eclipsing Black Friday as consumers across the country finish off their Christmas shopping.