Charges announced against MOA protesters

Published 10:20 am Thursday, January 15, 2015

BLOOMINGTON — Prosecutors have charged an additional 10 people who participated in a massive demonstration over contentious policing tactics at the Mall of America just before Christmas, Bloomington authorities said Wednesday.

The latest charges are in addition to 25 demonstrators who were arrested and charged with trespassing at the rally that took over the mall’s rotunda for several hours on Dec. 20, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the Star Tribune ( ) reported.

The demonstration was against recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

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In a statement, the group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said it was “saddened” by the decision to “to misdirect public resources to protect corporate profits instead of supporting justice” for African-Americans.

Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson cited a 1999 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that ruled the mall is private property where constitutional free speech protections don’t apply.

At the time, Johnson said that her office also would seek charges against protest organizers. The 10 people on Wednesday were charged with offenses ranging from unlawful assembly and public nuisance to trespassing and disorderly conduct, according to Bloomington police deputy chief Rick Hart.

Mica Grimm, 24, of Duluth, one of the defendants, called the charges “absurd.”

“We will not let these charges silence us,” Grimm said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota also criticized Bloomington prosecutors in a statement for “trying to silence those who are speaking out” against excessive use of force by police.

Hart said in a news release that the Mall of America, to “ensure the safety and experience of its guests,” has a longstanding policy that forbids protests.

“This policy has been consistently enforced. The Black Lives Matter group was informed that it did not have permission to gather and demonstrate in Mall of America. An alternative location was provided, and rally organizers declined to re-locate the demonstration,” Hart said.