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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...

http://peaceandsocialjustice.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-progressive-program-for-real-change.html


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.


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- Ben Franklin

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mall of America protesters enter pleas, supporters vow boycott

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_27682265/11-mall-america-black-lives-matter-protesters-plead



Mall of America protesters enter pleas, supporters vow boycott

 

By Elizabeth Mohr
emohr@pioneerpress.com
Posted:   03/10/2015 12:01:00 AM CDT
A shopper walks past a group of police in the rotunda area during the Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Mall of America. (Pioneer Press: John Autey) 
A protester takes photos as demonstrators lay down during the Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Mall of America. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)


Hundreds of demonstrators filled the rotunda while others marched around the mall. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)


A demonstrator holds a Black Lives Matter sign. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)


A Mall of America staff member takes video of the demonstration as protesters lay down in the rotunda. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)


The so-called "MOA11" defendants charged in a December protest at the Mall of America pleaded not guilty Tuesday amid songs and chants outside court.


While the 11 defendants were in the Hennepin County courthouse in Edina, in a gallery full of supporters, an even larger group of supporters gathered outside to decry their prosecution and what they called the deeper issue of perceived racism.


Tuesday's courthouse demonstration, organized by the local Black Lives Matter group, was large and peaceful. Hundreds of supporters dressed in black and carried signs to show solidarity with the 11 charged as purported organizers of the Dec. 20 protest at the Mall of America in Bloomington.


December's mass demonstration drew about 3,000 people to the rotunda and halls of the megamall. It was one of many demonstrations around the country in response to the high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.


The 11 were charged with -- and pleaded not guilty to -- a range of misdemeanors, including trespassing and disorderly conduct.


The charges stem from the assertion that the Mall of America is private property and that the protest organizers were told before the December demonstration that arrests were likely if they carried out the plan.



The private property claim is buttressed by a 1999 state Supreme Court ruling. In its decision, the court said the Mall of America is private property, like any other shopping mall, whose owners can limit demonstrations.


The case began in May 1996 with trespassing charges against four protesters who picketed Macy's at the Mall of America and urged shoppers to boycott the department store because it sells fur.

In addition to the 11 people arraigned Tuesday, 25 others were arrested at the December protest and later charged. A partial list of their names was provided by court administrators.
Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson said the 36 defendants were selected because of their roles in organizing or their overtly disruptive actions at the mall.


"There were thousands (of protesters) and we couldn't arrest all of them," Johnson said. "We tried to keep the peace, and did that by arresting those who appeared to be breaching that peace."


After their arraignment hearing Tuesday, some defendants addressed the crowd.
"The 3,000 organizers and leaders who went to Mall of America on Dec. 20 were there to deliver one message: contrary to our nation's history, black lives do matter," Kandace Montgomery said. "Mall of America has a choice. Mall of America can tell Sandra (Johnson) to drop the charges or they can continue with their racist business policies."


Adja Gildersleve talked about racial disparities in Minnesota, calling it "one of the worst places to live for people of color."


"The reason we have the largest disparity is we have systems of inequity embedded in our policies, embedded in our institutions and even embedded in our social fabric," Gildersleve said. "The reason why those people -- some of you are here -- showed up at the mall and were courageous to raise their voice was they want to put an end to this injustice."


Michael McDowell said, "I'm one of the MOA11" and thanked the crowd for showing up to support the defendants. He spoke of police racial profiling and said, "This is a moral crisis."
The final speaker was Mica Grimm, who told the crowd, "This is what it looks like when we decide we want a brighter future for our babies."




The 11 alleged ringleaders charged are: Montgomery, 24, of Minneapolis; Gildersleve, 26, of Minneapolis; McDowell, 21, of Minneapolis; Grimm, 24, of Duluth; Catherine Salonek, 26, of Minneapolis; Todd Dahlstrom, 49, of St. Paul; Amity Foster, 38, of Minneapolis; Jie Wronski-Riley, 18, of Minneapolis; Shannon Bade, 45, of Minneapolis; Pamela Twiss, 53, of Minneapolis; and Nekima Levy-Pounds, 38, of Brooklyn Park, a University of St. Thomas law professor and director of the Community Justice Project.


Court officials provided a list of 21 others charged. It's unclear why the list didn't include the 25 additional reported defendants. The court's list included: Kimberly Socha, Dakota Machgan, Gustavo Mancilla-Bernal, Deanne Pratt, Rose Meyer, Nakami Tongit-Green, Mautaui Tongit-Green, Rahsaan Mahadeo, Anthony Nocella, Tadele Gebremedin, Dua Saleh, Emmett Doyle, Roxxanne Rittenhouse, Madeline Jacobs, Tamera Larkins, Andrew Edwards, Benjamin Painter, Christopher Juhn, Imani McCray, Aaron Abram and Sara Gieseke.


Asked about the calls for the Mall of America to drop the charges or to influence Johnson's office to dismiss the cases, Johnson chuckled.


"That's like asking the crime victim to drop the charges. They can ask, but if a crime is committed, we do the prosecution," she said. "That happens often in domestic assault cases where a victim will call later and say, 'I want to drop charges.' They don't have that choice. ... The Mall of America could call and lobby me until the sun came down and it still wouldn't matter. We will continue to prosecute these charges."


Bruce Nestor, an attorney on the team representing the defendants, said the mall, which routinely hosts other events, was approached and asked to allow the protest to happen.




"The mall refused to allow this event to go forward with its blessing and instead chose to greet this event, along with the Bloomington police, with a militarized approach," Nestor said. "The treatment of this event was an instance of racial profiling."


The local Black Lives Matter group recently posted on its Facebook page a series of emails between Johnson and Mall of America officials, in which criminal charges and possible civil action against protesters are discussed.


Some have accused Johnson of conspiring with mall officials to file charges or of taking directives from the mall's owners.

"There's nothing out of the ordinary about these emails," Johnson said. "It's generally the kind of conversation you'll have with a crime victim. A victim will call and say, 'Should I bring a civil lawsuit?' and we'll say, 'You might want to wait and see how the criminal case plays out. Take a breath and make sure you want to do that.' "


Johnson said the emails were released to a member of the Black Lives Matter group pursuant to a data request.


"City attorneys can classify all their conversations if it's considered legal advice," Johnson said. "But we're erring on the side of transparency because we don't have anything to hide."




The prosecution has requested that the defendants pay restitution for the reported $25,000 in police costs and $8,000 in mall security costs related to the event.


Johnson contends that the protest organizers should have sought and obtained the proper permits and should have made the required payments for police coverage for their event.




"The basis for the restitution claim is, why should they be exempt from the cost because they decided not to follow the proper channels?" Johnson said. "But the protesters just did it. And this cost was to the taxpayers."


Tuesday's demonstration ended with a call to boycott the Mall of America.

Pastor Danny Givens Jr. asked people in the crowd to get their phones out and tweet #boycottMOA, which was met with cheers.


"Boycott can get it done," Givens told the crowd. "It's one of the tools that we can use, and so let's move it forward for economic justice."


A call to the Mall of America for comment was not returned.


This report includes information from the Associated Press.




Elizabeth Mohr can be reached at 651-228-5162. Follow her at twitter.com/LizMohr