ST. PAUL, Minn. – Black Lives Matter protesters vowed Monday to press on with their plan to demonstrate at the Mall of America on the busy shopping day before Christmas Eve, despite the mall's efforts to stop them.
The mall requested a temporary restraining order barring the group from staging its protest Wednesday over the police killing of a black man last month. It is hoping to prevent the type of disruption that thousands of protesters caused last year, when stores had to temporarily close and dozens of people were arrested.
A hearing for the mall's request is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday in Hennepin County District Court.
Last year's Christmas-time demonstration was one of several staged throughout the country over the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York by police officers who weren't charged. Those behind this year's planned protest at the Mall of America want the authorities to release video of the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police on Nov. 15.
Clark died during what police said was a struggle. Others who say they saw the shooting, though, say Clark was handcuffed at the time. Authorities have declined to release video of the shooting while state and federal investigations are underway.
Beyond barring the protest, the mall's request filed Friday would also require organizers to remove posts with plans of the demonstration from social media and to send out notifications that the event has been canceled. The mall, which is privately owned and doesn't allow protests, contends that another demonstration would mean more lost sales for its vendors.
"Mall of America supports BLM's First Amendment right to free expression, but courts have clearly ruled that right may not be exercised on private property without the consent of the property owner," the mall's attorney wrote.
In an order dismissing misdemeanor charges against 11 protest organizers from last year's protest, Judge Peter Cahill noted that a private property owner may seek a court order to stop unauthorized activities on its property. Cahill also said a private property owner might seek civil damages against those who engage in conduct that results in lost profits or property rights.
Black Lives Matter leaders have promised to keep Wednesday's protest peaceful. In a statement Monday, they vowed to go through with the demonstration unless their demands are met.
The group is also seeking a special prosecutor to be appointed, rather than have a grand jury decide whether the officers should be charged in Clark's death. In addition, they want federal terrorism charges to be brought against four men who shot at protesters outside a Minneapolis police precinct last month, injuring five.
"The Mall America continues to seek to bar free speech for the community on its premises," Black Lives Matter said. "The Mall of America has now taken the further outrageous and totalitarian step of attempting to control the speech of individuals."