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Trespassing charges dropped against MOA protesters, but legal fight continues

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A partial victory for some of the people facing legal consequences in connection with a protest at Mall of America during the height of last year's holiday shopping season.

Bloomington prosecutor Sandra Johnson has dismissed trespassing charges against the "ringleaders" of the Black Lives Matter demonstration, according to a Facebook news release from the group.

The protest, staged in December 2014 at the megamall, attracted several thousand participants. It was aimed at raising awareness of police violence against African Americans; it ended in several arrests and a stack of criminal charges for a number of those involved.

In the days before the demonstration took place, officials from the mall and the city of Bloomington had warned the organizers repeatedly they could be arrested for trespassing because the Mall of America is private property.

The demonstration was peaceful, but some stores in the mall were closed for several hours that day as a precaution.

The decision to dismiss comes after public outcry over the charges, and the filing of a motion from defense attorneys who successfully argued the trespassing counts should be dropped because the protesters were ordered by the mall to "disperse," rather than leave the property, the release says.

Some charges remain.

NAACP Minneapolis President Nekima Levy-Pounds, who is among the defendants, says she was initially facing eight misdemeanor counts, which now number five – four, she notes, are related to "aiding and abetting."

However, Levy-Pounds was anything but thankful, saying the case sends the message that "if you are white and you show up on 'private property' in Bloomington to protest the killing of a lion, you’re safe, as we saw last week."

"But if you show up at the Mall of America to protest the killing of unarmed African Americans by police," she continued, "you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and treated like a criminal."

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