Yesterday protesters being prosecuted by Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson released a batch of emails showing her close collaboration with the Mall of America in pursuing charges against the organizers of the huge Dec. 23 protest at the mall.
Before the giant Black Lives Matter protest in the mall's rotunda, Johnson wrote the mall's lawyers, telling them to take screenshots of social media and video of the protest to help make future charges stick. See also: Mall of America Shut Down by Black Lives Matter Protest
"You are probably doing this already -- but please document all the social media and video feeds on social media concerning the event," Johnson wrote. "The groups are very likely to take these sites down when they hear that we intend to prosecute them."
"My office cannot do that -- it would require us to be witnesses in our own prosecutions."
Jordan Kushner, a defense lawyer representing five of the protesters charged, says such blatant coordination is "uncharted territory."
"This is confirmation here that the Bloomington city attorney is really working for Mall of America," he said. "They did an extensive intelligence operation, which is unprecedented in my experience, over totally nonviolent misdemeanor allegations."
Fifteen people charged with various misdemeanors for their roles in the protest made their first appearance in court this morning.
The emails also show Johnson working with the mall's lawyers the day before the protest to figure out the best way to punish members of Black Lives Matter.
Mall of America lawyer Kathleen Allen wrote:
"The bigger issue for me is pushing [mall owners] to consider civil action. I'm concerned that if these other charges don't carry greater penalties than a trespass charge, we'll be in the same position as last year."
"I agree that you need to have consequences, but MOA may wish to await the criminal charges. It's the prosecution's job to be the enforcer and MOA needs to continue to put on a positive, safe face."
Allen replied saying she agreed and would defer any civil action until the criminal charges played out.
Another set of emails reveal Johnson also considered charging employees of the hair salon Lush, which had employees walk out to show solidarity with the protesters during the demonstration. Lush was issued a warning letter from the mall instead, because the mall's owners wanted to "eliminate the potential for further press on this matter."
Johnson did not respond to an interview request.
Kushner is confident he will get the charges against the protesters dismissed. If not, he said it could be a good opportunity to challenge a 1996 state Supreme Court ruling that declared the Mall of America private property despite receiving huge public subsidies.
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