Police brutality protesters rally at Mall of America

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Demonstrators chanting, “Black lives matter,” converged in the Mall of America rotunda Saturday as part of a protest of police brutality that caused at least part of the mall to shut down on a busy day for holiday shoppers.

The group Black Lives Matter Minneapolis had more than 3,000 people confirm on Facebook that they would attend. Official attendance figures weren’t immediately available, but pictures posted to social media by local news organizations showed the rotunda was full.

The Mall of America increased security, and police in riot gear were present. WCCO-AM reported that stores were closed for a short time, and signs were posted at some entrances advising shoppers that the east side of the mall was on lockdown.

After a final warning to disperse about 30 minutes after the protest began, police in riot gear began clearing the rotunda, the Star Tribune reported. A large group of protesters began leaving the mall, but others migrated to a shopping area and occupied two levels.

About an hour later, organizers sent out a group text message advising those who were still inside to exit. There were no immediate reports of any official arrests, but local media posted on Twitter that a few people were being escorted away by police.

The rally is part of protests happening nationwide after officers weren’t charged in the deaths of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York.

During the planned rally, protesters in the rotunda shouted “While you’re on your shopping spree, black people cannot breathe” — a reference to the chokehold police placed on Eric Garner, who died in New York. 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 there 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 management said days before the protest.

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