America’s largest mall was the scene of thousands of holiday shoppers colliding with political protestors last Saturday.
The massive protests, organized by Black Lives Matter with the help of Facebook, is a continuance of the outcry from recent high-profile deaths of two unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner by white police officers. In each case, grand juries failed to indict police. Garner’s incident was recorded by a civilian.
Mall of America, which boasts 500 stores and an amusement park, was upstaged by shouts of an estimated 3,000 demonstrators, according to CNN. At least 25 arrests were made at the Bloomington, MN megamall. Management said protestors ignored warnings to keep the demonstration off Mall of America property. Protestors shouted that the mall is public property.
Protestors gathered in the Rotunda area of the mall, holding signs and chanting. Some passed out pamphlets and raised their arms over their heads, a gesture to illustrate that Brown was shot and killed while allegedly surrendering to police. Others wore tee-shirts with the words, “I can’t breathe”—a complaint Garner made to the New York cop who placed him in a chokehold that eventually contributed to his death.
A young white woman told CNN: “I’m here to help fight the violence that’s going on and bring awareness to what’s happening. Black lives are just as important as mine and the color of your skin shouldn’t determine what happens out there on the street.”
Protestors occupied 2 levels of the mall, causing mall management to close stores on one side. “Die-ins” were staged in front of retail shops. The mall was shut down for 2 hours as management and police tried to move protestors out on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Despite the massive numbers of protests and the potential for conflict, however, one protestor said police were patient with the crowd, giving them multiple chances to leave before arresting them.
“They could have arrested me, but they didn’t,” a man said, adding that he left shortly after being warned, not wanting to test the limits of that patience.
Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson expects to file criminal charges against Black Lives Matter organizers.