As hundreds protested outside court house, eleven organizers of a December Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America appeared in court Tuesday on various charges that could send them to jail for up to two years. They all pleaded not guilty. The next court date has been set for May 1.
More than 3,000 people participated in the protest about recent murders of unarmed Black people who are killed at a disproportionately higher rate by police across the country.
At a press conference following Tuesday’s court appearance, organizers announced a boycott of the Mall of America saying Black Lives Matter supporters voted 653-36 in a text poll to call for a nationwide boycott.
“We’re wearing black because we are mourning the death of our American moral compass,” Mica Grimm said.
One of the defendants, Michael McDowell said his treatment by the police unfortunately is nothing new to him. “This is a clear attempt to silence our voices and the voices of many others in this movement demanding that Black people be treated like human beings. My first time in the back of a police car was when I was twelve; not because I was breaking the law or doing something wrong, but because I was being racially profiled. This system is set up to target and profile Black people.”
Raw video of court protest and email controversy
The arrests and charges have drawn sharp criticism from a broad rang of citizenry, specifically the clergy. Rev Grant Stevenson, Pastor, St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, Saint Paul, Minnesota, said, “50 years on, to the week, from the march on Selma, we are still prosecuting the people who are standing up for a better world. It is bizarre.” Clerical collars were sprinkled throughout the crowd.
Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson has drawn sharp criticism for her use of city resources to prosecute these charges. On Monday, Black Lives Matter released emails that the group contends reveal “disturbing levels of coordination” between the mall and city of Bloomington attorneys in legal decisions arising from the Dec. 20 protest.
Clergy and university professors have signed open letters asking Johnson to drop the charges. Johnson says the “the criminal justice system must look at the conduct not the content of the messages behind the illegal conduct.”
Video at top: highlights of protest
Video below: raw video of protest