11 PROTESTERS PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO CHARGES STEMMING FROM MOA

The progress from Western colonial global expansion, and the construction of American wealth and industry on the backs of enslaved Blacks and Native peoples, followed by the abrupt "emancipation" of the slaves and their exodus from the South to the Northern cities, has led us to our current divided society. Divided by economic inequities and unequal access to social resources, the nation lives in a media dream of social harmony, or did until YouTube set its bed on fire. Now, it is common knowledge that our current system of brutal racist policing and punitive over-incarceration serves the dual purpose of maintaining racial prejudice and the inequities it justifies. Brief yourself on this late-breaking development in American history here.

11 PROTESTERS PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO CHARGES STEMMING FROM MOA

Postby admin » Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:14 am

11 PROTESTERS PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO CHARGES STEMMING FROM MOA DEMONSTRATION
by John Reinan
March 10, 2015

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As the defendants made their first appearance, more than 200 vocal supporters chanted outside the courthouse.

Image

The first appearances in court by Mall of America protesters brought out a large group to lend support outside the courthouse in Edina Tuesday.
Photos by DAVID JOLES • djoles@startribune.com


Chanting, cheering and singing, more than 200 people gathered outside an Edina courthouse Tuesday to support Black Lives Matter.

The roar of the crowd could be heard inside the courtroom where 11 members of the group appeared for the first time on charges arising from a massive demonstration at the Mall of America on Dec. 20.

“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.

Inside, the 11 people identified by Bloomington officials as organizers and “ringleaders” of the demonstration each pleaded not guilty in Hennepin County District Court to six separate criminal misdemeanor charges, including trespass, disorderly conduct, and aiding and abetting trespass. Several defendants also face additional charges for blocking a roadway outside the mall.

After the hearing, the defendants — all dressed in black — left the courthouse to loud cheers from the crowd outside. Several then took turns speaking to the crowd through a bullhorn from the steps of the Southdale Service Center.

“We’re wearing black because we are mourning the death of our American moral compass,” said Mica Grimm.

“We want to create a justice system that doesn’t treat every black body as a target,” said Kandace Montgomery.

The MOA “Black Lives Matter” demonstration drew 2,000 to 3,000 people to the mall’s rotunda on the last Saturday before Christmas. It was one of many protests across the nation in the wake of the deaths of black men at the hands of police in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.

Mall and Bloomington city officials warned the demonstrators ahead of time that the mall would not approve a protest inside, and offered an outdoor space near the mall for the protest. When police, sheriff’s deputies and mall security moved to clear the rotunda, hundreds of protesters migrated to shopping areas near the rotunda, occupying two levels and staging several “die-ins” in front of stores.

It took more than two hours before the mall was returned to normal, with a number of stores on its east side shut down for part of that time.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the mall is a private venue and thus can bar any unapproved gatherings. Many of the protest supporters gathered on Tuesday were aware of that ruling, yet questioned its wisdom.

“I think they’re trying to shut down every avenue of protest,” said Dave Bicking of Minneapolis. Lyn Rabinovitch of Minneapolis, who attended the Dec. 20 demonstration, contrasted the mall’s reaction to that event with its response to a vague threat last month from the Somali terror group Al-Shabab.

“I think it’s very interesting that when the mall heard a terror threat, it was business as usual,” she said. “But when we had a peaceful protest, the police came out and the [storefront] bars came down.”

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said the Mall of America should be considered “the new public square” and people should be free to exercise their right to free speech at the mall.

Bruce Nestor, one of a team of attorneys representing the defendants pro bono, said the next scheduled court proceeding has been set for May 1, when attorneys will negotiate the schedule of events in the case going forward.

Several of the defendants traveled last week to Selma, Ala., where President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a key event in the struggle to win full voting rights for African-Americans. Adja Gildersleve, a Black Lives Matter defendant, also traveled to Memphis, Tenn., to visit the site of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

“As I stood in that room, my ancestors came to me, and they said, ‘You are not alone,’ ” she said as the crowd cheered. Michael McDowell, another defendant, took the bullhorn and told about being detained by police at age 12.

“My first time in the back of a police car wasn’t because I broke the law,” he said. “It was because I was waiting for my little sister at the school bus, and I was black. We won’t back down!” McDowell shouted, before leading the crowd in a chant of “Black lives matter!”
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Re: 11 PROTESTERS PLEAD NOT GUILTY TO CHARGES STEMMING FROM

Postby admin » Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:14 am

Protesters say e-mails show 'disturbing' coordination between Bloomington and Mall of America
by John Reinan
March 10, 2015

Prosecutor scoffs at notion that e-mails show collusion over response to demonstration.

Image
People gather outside the Hennepin County District Court in Edina (Southdale Service Center) in advance of Tuesday's hearing for people facing charges connected to a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America. Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

As 11 Mall of America protesters prepare to make their first court appearance on Tuesday, the group Black Lives Matter released e-mails that it said revealed “disturbing levels of coordination” between Mall of America and city of Bloomington attorneys in legal decisions arising from the Dec. 20 demonstration.

Sandra Johnson, Bloomington’s city attorney, said the e-mails simply show normal discussions among lawyers handling issues for their clients.

The e-mails, gathered through a public records request, document communication between Johnson and mall officials. In one exchange on Dec. 22, 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.

“I agree that you need to have consequences, but MOA may wish to await the criminal charges,” Johnson wrote to Allen. “It’s the prosecution’s job to be the enforcer and MOA needs to continue to put on a positive, safe face. The city’s prosecution team is taking this very seriously.”

Allen responded, “Agree — we would defer any civil action depending on how the criminal charges play out.”

Johnson said Monday that her comment was merely meant to indicate that the mall should stick to what it does best and prosecutors should stick to what they do best.

“You do your job and we’ll do ours,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to tell them their business. But I’m trying to keep their [potential] civil matter separate from the criminal prosecution.”

Protest organizers denounced what they called a “political prosecution at the behest of the largest mall in the U.S.” The criminal charges are “a clear attempt to silence peaceful activists asserting the value of black lives, which sets a dangerous precedent for democracy and free speech everywhere,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, a University of St. Thomas law professor and Black Lives Matter organizer who is among those charged in the protest.

Johnson said Black Lives Matter has spent countless hours combing through months’ worth of her e-mails and has come up with nothing improper.

“They’ve been here for days in the last several weeks, going through 58,000 e-mails,” Johnson said. “They’ve gone to great lengths to find a smoking gun, I believe. And this is the best they could get?”

In another e-mail, Johnson asks mall officials to keep a record of social media use by the protesters. “The groups are very likely to take these sites down when they hear that we intend to prosecute them,” she wrote.

Johnson said Monday that she was simply asking the mall to preserve evidence — a common request in criminal investigations.

Allen, the mall’s corporate counsel, was not available Monday afternoon. A mall spokeswoman said, “We are not straying from any other statements. The city attorney is really the one carrying it.”

Before the demonstration, the mall cautioned protest organizers that it was private property.

The idea that there’s some kind of back-channel communication between the city and the mall is ridiculous, Johnson said, noting that she regularly deals with mall attorneys on a wide range of issues, including licenses, permits, leases, contracts, security and other routine matters.

“Certainly, they’re a taxpayer and they’re one of the biggest draws in town,” Johnson said. “But they’re not the only draw in town.”

Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. John Reinan • 612-673-7402
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