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Mall of America wants restraining order against Black Lives Matter protest

Black Lives Matter supporters crowd behind Susan Gaertner, the Mall of America's attorney, as she addresses reporters.

Black Lives Matter supporters crowd behind Susan Gaertner, the Mall of America's attorney, as she addresses reporters.

UPDATE: While the judge granted part of the Mall of America’s motion, we’re scoring this one in favor of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. On Tuesday, Judge Karen Janisch issued an injunction against three organizers — Miski Noor, Michael McDowell, and Kandace Montgomery — prohibiting them, and only them, from participating in Wednesday’s protest.

Janisch shot down the mall’s request to block the protest entirely. Furthermore, she rejected its attempt to force activists to remove social media posts about the protest and issue other messages canceling the demonstration, which First Amendment advocates ripped.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis fought the mall (again). Who won this round awaits a judge's decision. 

Seeking to block a planned protest amid the cha-chinging holiday shopping season, the Mall of America asked a Hennepin County judge for a temporary restraining order against the activists. The order would prohibit the crew from demonstrating or encouraging others to do so without the mall’s permission. It also would require Black Lives Matter to delete social media posts related to the protest and send out new text messages and Facebook and Twitter posts calling off the rally.

Lawyers on both sides laid out their cases Monday afternoon for Hennepin County District Court Judge Karen Janisch. The robe didn’t immediately issue a ruling. But with the “#BlackXmas2” protest slated for Wednesday afternoon — and perhaps more importantly, Janisch’s vacation starting Tuesday — the mall’s attorney said a decision could come by Monday night.

But even if the megamall gets its court-ordered wish, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has no intention of complying.

“Backing down has never been nor will be a part of Black Lives Matter’s tactics,” said Michael McDowell, one of the four organizers named in the restraining order request.

Another four John Does were also listed in the mall’s request.

Former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, who’s repping the Mall of America, says the retail mecca has no beef with Black Lives Matter’s goals — which include the release of video showing Jamar Clark being shot and killed by Minneapolis police. But she argues that the activists have no right to protest on the mall’s private property.

“You do it in places like this, in a courthouse,” Gaertner told reporters, as a group of Black Lives Matter supporters huddled behind her holding signs.

If Janisch rules in the mall’s favor and the protesters rally anyway, they could be held in contempt — in addition to whatever charges Bloomington might throw at them.

Janisch noted several sticky issues in the case, including the tight timeline. Some activists had not been formerly served by the time the hearing took place. Since the temporary restraining order was filed against individuals — not Black Lives Matter as a group — the activists’ loose collective nature could make it difficult to enforce.

Even though the mall is private property, organizers’ attorney Jordan Kushner argued that, as a gathering place open to the public, the Mall of America isn’t the same as someone’s house. Kushner accused the mall of “trying to control their speech,” which goes “against the essence” of the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota joined Kushner in calling the mall’s move a steaming pile of unconstitutional overreach and an “improper prior restraint on speech.” 

Organizers were notified Friday that the mall wanted to legally quash their protest slated for 1 p.m. Wednesday in the mall’s Rotunda. Last year Black Lives Matter held a similar holiday rally at the mall, which ended with 11 organizers and 17 protesters being hit with various charges, including trespassing, abetting unlawful assembly, and disorderly conduct. In November, a judge tossed out the charges against the organizers, while letting the protesters’ trespassing charges stand. The protest held days before Christmas drew around 3,000 people, organizers say, though Gaertner pegs the number at 1,000-1,500.

According to the Star Tribune, several stores were briefly locked down during the Dec. 20, 2014 protest, which was spurred by incidents across the country where police killed unarmed black men. Though the protest remained peaceful, stores claimed it hurt their sales on one of the year’s busiest shopping days.