As Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson presses forward with charges against Black Lives Matter protesters who occupied the Mall of America in December, hundreds gathered on the steps of Southdale Court on Friday to protest the prosecutor.
Though 3,000 demonstrators filled the rotunda at the Mall of America in December, only 36 were arrested and charged with trespassing on private property. Johnson is also seeking restitution claims against 11 organizers to pay for the riot police on hand.
"Police are trying to get us to pay for them," says organizer Alissa Paris. "It's my damn mall! I buy all my socks and everything there. Used to."
After leading the crowd in freedom songs -- including "Ain't gonna Mall of America turn me around" -- Paris announced that Johnson's team had filed a motion to gag those charged from talking about the trial.The judge ultimately threw out that request, citing widespread community interest in the case.
Defense attorneys also asked the prosecution to turn over additional information. The mall claims that certain PowerPoint presentations and security-related documents are confidential, and Johnson insisted that Bloomington does not have to identify certain undercover police officers who worked the protest on December 20.
The judge said he would take a look at all the evidence before making a decision on whether the prosecution may hide anything from the defense.
Overall, 31 defendants attended court on Friday. The remaining cases are either being tried before a different judge or have been settled with plea bargains. One defendant will go to trial in June, and the rest will follow in October.
Teresa Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union will represent Kandace Montgomery, one of the 11 charged with organizing. She says that even though the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the mall's right to ban protests because it's private property, the ACLU will explore creative ways to assert Montgomery's constitutional rights.
"We believe that is a political prosecution and we will be vigorously defending our client," Nelson says.
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