11 plead not guilty in Black Lives Matter MOA demonstration

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, March 11, 2015

EDINA — Eleven people charged following a large demonstration last December at the Mall of America pleaded not guilty Tuesday as their supporters jammed into a Hennepin County courthouse.

The 11 defendants, all dressed in black, entered the pleas to a range of misdemeanors, including trespassing and disorderly conduct. Other supporters sang and chanted outside the courthouse main entrance.

“We’re here because black lives matter, and they’re trying to prosecute them for saying that too loud,” shouted Asha Long, leading songs and chants outside.

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After the hearing, the defendants left the courthouse to loud cheers, the Star Tribune reported. Several then took turns speaking to the crowd through a bullhorn.

“We’re wearing black because we are mourning the death of our American moral compass,” Mica Grimm said. The group’s supporters called for a boycott of the Mall of America.

Mall officials and Bloomington police warned the demonstrators they would not approve a gathering inside the building and offered them an outdoor space to protest.

Officials say the “Black Lives Matter” demonstration drew several thousand people to the Mall of America. It was one of many demonstrations around the country following the high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.

On Monday, Black Lives Matter released emails that the group contends reveal “disturbing levels of coordination” between the mall and city of Bloomington attorneys in legal decisions arising from the Dec. 20 protest.

The emails, released through a public records request, document communication between Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson and mall officials. In one exchange two days after the protest, Johnson and mall attorney Kathleen Allen discuss whether the mall should pursue a lawsuit in addition to possible criminal charges by the city, the Star Tribune reported.

Johnson said Tuesday her exchange with the mall was no different from what she would have with “someone who has suffered a loss as a result of criminal conduct.” She said her advice to the mall simply was to allow the criminal proceedings play out and to let the prosecution worry about deterring future criminal conduct at the mall.

“I don’t think we’re in cahoots,” Johnson told The Associated Press.

In a statement, the Mall of America said it was aware of the release of several partial email exchanges between the mall and the city of Bloomington.

“Mall of America has cooperated with the City of Bloomington before, during and after the demonstration,” the mall’s statement said.