A peaceful crowd of Americans fed up with our nation's chronic unwillingness to prosecute police for killing black people crammed into the rotunda of the Mall of America this afternoon. The crowd was allowed to demonstrate its deep-seated displeasure, fists and cell phones raised, for six minutes until an Orwellian voice boomed from the PA system above:
"This demonstration is not authorized and is in clear violation of Mall of America policy..." The rest of the statement was drowned out by a thunderous chorus of incredulous, angry boos. See also: Powerful Scenes from the Black Lives Rally at Mall of America
The demonstrators, brought together by Black Lives Matter, continued chanting in various forms for another 20 minutes. They were surrounded on all sides by columns of riot police.
Doris Rubenstein of Richfield shouted "Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!" as a group of riot police marched past her near the back of the crowd.
"The cops should be ashamed that they are trying to provoke people who are in the middle of a peaceful demonstration," she said. "Their mere presence is a provocation."
Others were disgusted with the protesters' selfishness. A white man in a Harley-Davidson jacket held both middle fingers aloft in defiance of the crowd as protesters filed out of the rotunda.
He got into a brief argument with a young black man before the two were separated.
"He called me an agitator and asked me if I wanted to step outside," explained the white man, who said his name was Jerry.
"Why are they here? It's illegal. Everything they do breaks the law...if they can put their hands up, I'll put my fingers up," he said.
Stores near the rotunda were ordered closed by mall security for an hour and a half while the protesters were shooed out of the mall. One woman, Mary from St. Paul, said she was stuck in Barnes and Noble for a half hour during the protest.
"People thought it was a waste of time. They were frustrated," she said. "I don't really know what they're hoping to prove by this. There's a lot people out here, a lot of young kids, a lot of families just trying to do their Christmas shopping and it's just not fair."
"Overall it was not a bad place to get locked down though. Starbucks handed out free coffee to people and that was nice," she added.
An hour before the protest, a manager in Barnes and Noble told City Pages the store's sales were "going great" and that she "wasn't worried in the least" about the protest affecting business. Barnes and Noble declined to comment after the protest.
The east side of the mall stayed on lockdown when the demonstration moved outside, to the road in between the Sea Life aquarium entrance and the parking ramp.
People blocked the street and spilled onto the sidewalk, standing on ledges and craning their necks for a better view.
Shouts of "We shut this shit down," and "We'll be back" were interspersed with singing and statements from protest leaders ringing out underneath the roar of airplanes above. Then, about an hour and a half after the rotunda began to fill up, the protest organizers told everyone to go home.
Inside the mall pockets of die-hard demonstrators marched along the second and third floor, keeping stores closed.
"We will continue the protests. We plan on turning this moment into a movement, and we will not be stopped," said Michael McDowell with Black Lives Matter.