Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson told City Pages this morning she will file formal charges against "three or four" of the organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest at Mall of America Saturday.
Johnson said she will try to force the organizers to pay for all of the overtime Bloomington Police had to issue to keep the protest in check, but "there's no way" she could get restitution for store owners who were forced to close down for several hours.
"This is more than trespassing. This is unlawful public assembly, public nuisance, one could argue it was riot in the third degree," said Johnson.
Johnson said Bloomington received help from numerous other local police agencies coming from as far away as Hastings and Red Wing, in addition to the dozens of extra security staff the mall hired, but even then the city "could have used twice as many police."
"All you needed were a few people to start acting out and getting violent and we would've had an absolute mob scene. We could've had something where people got hurt and property got damaged," she said. "Fortunately with the amount of police we had, we were able to cordon it off, control it, and they saw we meant business."
Black Lives Matter organizers said this morning they will be issuing a statement about facing potential charges later today. We will update as soon as their statement is issued.
[UPDATE 12:05 p.m.] Black Lives Matter Minneapolis posted a statement on its Facebook page that reads, in part:
"As a community, we are saddened by Mall of America and attorney Johnson's decision to misdirect public resources to protect corporate profits instead of supporting justice for Black people at this critical time in our nation's history.
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.
We also must be clear: #BlackXmas was not organized by any individual or small group, but was a collective response and effort by the 3,000 community members and families in attendance who can no longer remain silent to the injustices perpetrated upon their communities."
According to Johnson, it would be almost impossible for shop owners to collect restitution stemming from a criminal conviction, but a successful civil court trial could help them recoup their losses.
There is some precedent here. Johnson sought monetary damages from animal rights protesters as prosecutor in the State v. Wicklund case, which was eventually ruled on by the state Supreme Court.
That case, as we wrote yesterday, solidified Mall of America's standing as private property despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding.
Johnson could not recall if she was successful in obtaining restitution from the animal rights protesters.
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