Target: Sandra Johnson, City Attorney for Bloomington, Minnesota
Goal: Call on Johnson to drop criminal charges levied against participants in a Black Lives Matter protest, and end attempts to force them to pay for police overtime and lost revenues at the Mall of America where the protest was held
As protesters across the United States rallied against the officer-involved deaths of unarmed people of color, several local governments have attempted to limit the rights of protesters. Perhaps the most outrageous response came in the wake of a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest at one of the nation’s largest shopping malls, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Officials are pursuing criminal charges and demanding that protesters cover the cost of police overtime wages and the mall’s lost revenue.
The historic role of town squares has shifted over time. In many cities these public centers no longer exist and have effectively been replaced by mega-malls. Free speech laws protect the people’s right to gather and peacefully protest from government suppression, but their rights on private property are significantly reduced. CommonDreams reports that despite the fact that the Mall of America has benefited from hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies, the state’s courts have upheld the rights of its owners to limit protests on their property. In contrast the owners authorized a 2013 gathering of some 7,000 people to honor the death of a young, white cancer victim.
A statement from Black Lives Matter-Minnesota responded to the city attorney’s attack. “It’s clear that the Bloomington City government, at the behest of one of the largest centers of commerce in the country, hopes to set a precedent that will stifle dissent and instill fear into young people of color and allies who refuse to watch their brothers and sisters get gunned down in the streets with no consequences.”
Insist that the Bloomington City Attorney drop all criminal trespass and unlawful assembly charges against participants in the Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America. Call on her to cease attempts to charge protesters for police overtime and the mall’s lost revenues, and to end her targeting of peaceful protesters in general.
Dear City Attorney Johnson,
I am writing to urge you to end all attempts to criminalize participants in the December 26th Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America. Your desire to see protesters hit with criminal charges and “staggering” financial penalties comes across as willfully cruel and out of touch with the citizens of your great city.
If protesters had damaged the buildings, stole merchandize or harmed store employees your insistence on bringing them to justice would be completely understandable. But this protest was non-violent and respectful. While the mall may technically be private property its rotundas and throughways are treated like public gathering places. As such the people’s right to free speech and free assembly there should be upheld.
I must insist that you drop the criminal trespass and unlawful assembly charges levied against the protesters, and cease all attempts to charge them with the cost of police overtime and shops’ lost revenues.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Joe Chill 2 via Wikimedia Commons