Clergy Tell Bloomington To Charge Them, Too, In #BlackLivesMatter Protest

Black Lives Matter Protest At Mall Of America

Charge us, too.

That’s what a growing list of clergy is telling Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson and Mall of America administrators. Johnson says she expect to charge organizers of a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The clergy are upset that the city would single out three or four organizers when so many people participated. They are also upset that mall administrators assumed that the peaceful protest could turn violent and brought in a large security and police presence, something the mall did not do for a cancer memorial event that drew about 7,000 people.

“We were shocked and dismayed to see that the Mall of America did not believe the peaceful intentions of the peaceful gathering. We were stunned to see police in riot gear and extra law enforcement including state troopers present,” said the letter.

“In early December, over 7000 people filled the same Rotunda in memory of one who died too soon to cancer, to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Apparently there was no strong police presence, they were not met with police in riot gear, and no extra law enforcement officials (were) called in. We, too, gathered to remember untimely deaths of unarmed black men and boys and to raise awareness of police brutality.

“For reasons that are unclear to us, the Mall chose to respond to this second gathering in a completely different fashion, apparently presuming the worst of those who attended.”

Mall officials and Bloomington police had approached the event organizers several days in advance, asking them not to hold the event in the mall because it was private property and offering a nearby parking lot as an alternative.

The protest was part of a larger nationwide protest against police violence against black men.

When the protest began on Saturday, officers locked down about 80 stores and several mall entrances. Business at stores near the rotunda (where the protest was held) came to a halt for about two hours.

Bloomington City Attorney Johnson said she is waiting for estimates, but the cost of overtime put in by police and the revenue lost by stores could be “staggering,” and she wants the protest organizers to pay.

Full text of the letter

Dear Sandra Johnson and Mall of America administration,

We are clergy members of many faiths who attended the peaceful gathering at the Mall of America on December 20, 2014 with #Blacklivesmatter. We attended this event with hundreds of members of our respective religious organizations and congregations. We attended with our children, our spouses, and our friends.

We went, in this busy holiday season, because we felt a religious and moral imperative to do so. The lives and deaths of black people matter to us. God calls us to stand with those who are dismissed, denigrated, and destroyed. We gathered in this season of peace and hope to lift our voices and pray for a day when people of color are not targeted by the police because of the color of their skin.

We were promised a safe, family-friendly, non-violent action and that is precisely what we experienced. While the gathered crowd sang, grieved, and remembered the dead, we prayed for safety for all, including the police, and we prayed for a day when the killing of unarmed black men and boys would end.

We were shocked and dismayed to see that the Mall of America did not believe the peaceful intentions of the peaceful gathering. We were stunned to see police in riot gear and extra law enforcement including state troopers present.

Many of us had made a day of it at the Mall, shopping and eating lunch and planning for more of the same after the witness event, but this was not possible with the Mall locked down. It is unfortunate that the Mall of America chose to spend so much money on additional security and law enforcement officials. It appears that you presumed that because we care about violence against unarmed black people, the event itself was going to be violent. This was not the case.

In early December, over 7000 people filled the same Rotunda in memory of one who died too soon to cancer, to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Apparently there was no strong police presence, they were not met with police in riot gear, and no extra law enforcement officials called in. We, too, gathered to remember untimely deaths of unarmed black men and boys and to raise awareness of police brutality.

For reasons that are unclear to us, the Mall chose to respond to this second gathering in a completely different fashion, apparently presuming the worst of those who attended.

As far as we know, no physical damage was done to person or property at either event held at Mall of America. Likewise, as far as we know, no charges were brought against the planners of the cancer awareness-raising event.

We are disappointed they would single out 3 or 4 young organizers of this peaceful demonstration. We find that to be disturbing and patently unfair given that thousands played a role in ensuring the success and safety in this nonviolent peaceful protest. If your office plans to charge young organizers of this incredible peaceful protest then we demand that you charge us too because we all played a role in the success of this peaceful event.

Here are the names below and we demand to be charged right along with the young organizers of Black Lives Matter. We also “conspired” to make this peaceful demonstration a success.

We encourage you to stop this attack on courageous young leaders. And refrain from using public money to pursue any case or file charges against the perceived organizers of this peaceful gathering, which was meant to make our community a better place for all people.

In faith, #chargeustoo

Rev. Myron Andes
Pastor Todd Bratulich, Community Mission and Engagement
Pamela Cook
Pastor Danny Givens, Jr.
Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs
Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs
Lisa Friedman
Lena K. Gardner
Rev. Karen Hering
Rev. KP Hong
Rev. Michael A. Hotz, Associate Pastor of Care and Outreach
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz
Rev. Ruth MacKenzie
Nekima Levy-Pounds, Esq.
Elizabeth A. Oppenheimer
Rev. Meg Riley
Rev. Victoria Safford
Rev. Kent Hemmen Saleska
Rev. Justin Schroeder
Pastor Grant Stevensen
Rev. Luke Stevens-Royer
Pastor Steve Sylvester
Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink
Rev. Kate Tucker
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel

attended in spirit, #chargeustoo
Rev. Jen Crow
Rev. Javen Swanson
Rev. Bonnie Wilcox
Eric S. Fought

This is a growing list.
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This open letter was sent to City Attorney Sandra Johnson and MOA administration on Dec. 24, 2014 and was put together by a group of concerned faith leaders and clergy that came together to support the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis movement, along with thousands of other individuals.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

5 thoughts on “Clergy Tell Bloomington To Charge Them, Too, In #BlackLivesMatter Protest

  1. There is a huge difference between a memorial that was there to raise money and a protest that cost MOA and it’s businesses millions of dollars… Comparing the two sounds very ridiculous. And sending a letter saying “this is who was there too” does not give law enforcement the right to charge anyone else. Am hoping you realize that as well.

    Please put more thought in to what your doing, and how your going about it. You could just end up making things worse for yourselves in the end.

  2. Well done, clergy.

    The authorities are engaged in an anti-American attempt to stifle protest. The same way the British tried to arrest and prosecute the founders of this nation. The right to protest is foundational to democracy, and it is not contingent on the concerns of retailers.

    Sheesh. It amazes me how sadly ignorant and passive most Americans are these days. “The authorities must be right” is a childish attitude, and anyone expressing it does not really deserve the freedom this country offers. Freedom comes with responsibility, including the responsibility to challenge our elected and appointed authorities and their abuse of force and use of public funds to silence American citizens.

  3. 1)
    The mall receiving funds via tax benefits does not remove their right
    to laws regarding trespassing and private property, nor does it give
    people who enter the ability to ignore those laws and rights.

    2) It’s hard to claim that the mall was discriminating
    against people for their race when more than one race was there. In the
    picture above you can clearly see black people, white people and a
    woman who looks to be hispanic. There are other photos that show people
    of asian heritage present. Gonna be a tough case to establish that the
    mall was acting on race since ALL of them of ALL races were told to
    leave.

    3)
    “people can be punished for advocating illegal activity only if they
    intended that illegal activity ensue, only if they used explicit words
    of incitement, and, most importantly, only if they intended to incite
    ‘imminent’ illegal activity under circumstances in which such illegal
    activity was likely”

    Also
    not too hard to show. The protest organizers were notified in advance
    that this action would be illegal. They continued to push for the
    protests… and all over their organizational page (HERE!) there are
    comments about how it’s time to “shut it down” and how the plan is to
    “disrupt business as usual” for the mall and the people in the mall.

    In
    court, that’s an admission that your ENTIRE PLAN was to break the law,
    and by asking people to invite friends, they fulfilled the requirements
    needed to bring those charges.

    Just a few thoughts….

  4. I agree, in addition, the cancer awareness made arrangements with the mall in advance, paid fees to hold their event and organized a time with the mall that would not be disruptive to shoppers.

    This protest was defiant, the mall asked the organizers in advance to move to another location and they made a conscience choice to not follow the protocol the mall has established. The cops were brought in because the organizers disregarded mall requests to not hold the event in the rotunda, and people were not leaving when asked. This defiant attitude makes security a concern.

  5. “a protest that cost MOA and it’s businesses millions of dollars”

    Proof? You going to take their word for it? They didn’t need all the cops – that’s on the mall for calling them in. Seems convenient to say “well, we usually sell x amount so 5X is what we would have sold that day because we smell money”.