BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A mass of demonstrators chanting “Black lives matter” converged in the Mall of America rotunda on Saturday as part of a protest against police brutality that caused at least part of the mall to shut down on a busy day for holiday shopping.
The group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis had more than 3,000 people confirm on Facebook that they would attend. Official crowd estimates were not immediately available, but pictures posted to social media by local news organizations showed the rotunda was full. The organizer of the demonstration, Mica Grimm, estimated that about 3,000 people participated.
The Mall of America increased security, and certain parts of the mall were closed for some time. Signs were posted at some entrances advising shoppers that the east side of the mall was on lockdown.
There were no official reports on arrests, but Ms. Grimm said she knew of at least five people who had been arrested.
About 30 minutes after the protest began, a final warning to disperse was given, and police officers in riot gear began clearing the rotunda, The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. A large group of protesters began leaving the mall, but others moved to a shopping area and occupied two levels. A small “die-in” was staged in front of several stores.
About an hour later, organizers sent out a group text message advising those who were still inside the mall to leave. Live video from KSTP-TV showed police officers in riot gear marching through the mall’s skyway, ushering protesters outside.
The rally was part of nationwide protests over the failure to indict or charge police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and in New York.
During Saturday’s rally, protesters in the mall’s rotunda shouted “While you’re on your shopping spree, black people cannot breathe” — a reference to the chokehold a New York City police officer placed on Eric Garner, who died. As they were dispersing, they walked down the hall with their arms raised, shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
Mall representatives had said that a demonstration would violate policy, and protesters could be removed, arrested and banned.
“Mall of America is a commercial retail and entertainment center. 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’s management said days before the protest.
Ms. Grimm said that organizers believed the protest was a success.
“Our goal is to bring more attention to these issues — and what just happened, nobody can ignore,” she said.
Source: New York Times