Black Lives Matter is threatening to protest at the nation’s largest shopping mall during one of the busiest shopping days of the year if its demands are not met. The group has been calling for investigators in the Minneapolis police shooting death of Jamar Clark to release video of the incident, prosecute the officers who killed Clark without using a grand jury, and to bring federal terrorism charges against white supremacists who shot and wounded five Black Lives Matter protesters.
The group says if those demands are not met by December 23, it will return to the Mall of America — the site of a similarly timed protest last year that drew nearly 3,000 Black Lives Matter supporters. The Mall of America and Bloomington police responded by sending in officers in riot gear, shutting down the mall for several hours.
The tactic of disruption is one of the most powerful tools the Black Lives Matter movement has in its arsenal. One of the group’s leaders, NAACP Minneapolis President Nekima Levy-Pounds, makes no apologies for using it to “wake up” people.
“You have to do things that will shake people from complacency. Sometimes being stuck in traffic for an hour will do that,” Levy-Pounds recently told The UpTake, referring to Black Lives Matters protests that have shut down major highways. In the interview recorded a few days ago, she made no direct mention of making the Mall of America a target for disruption, but she said, “We’re going to challenge the status quo. If we have to shut down trains, that’s what we’ll do. If we have to march in the streets, that’s what we’ll have to do. If we have to show up at city hall or the state legislature or the governor’s mansion, that’s what we will do.”
Reminiscent Of Lynching Era
Video above: Levy-Pounds talks about why Black Lives Matter needs to disrupt with protest
Video below: Levy-Pounds talks about the broken grand jury system
“What’s happening now is reminiscent of what happened during the lynching era, where black people could be killed by angry white citizens or law enforcement and there would be zero accountability,” Levy-Pounds said of the past year’s violence by police and white civilians against blacks. “And so we’re seeing that happen again and we’re saying we’re not going to take it anymore. That we are going to continue to rise up.”
Investigators of Clark’s death have refused to release video of the shooting, saying it could taint the testimony of witnesses they are interviewing. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says a grand jury will decide if the officers should be indicted. Black Lives Matter say Freeman should prosecute the case directly without a grand jury because grand juries rarely, if ever, result in an indictment against the police.
“It’s an indication that that system is broken,” says Levy-Pounds, who is also an associate professor of law at the University of St. Thomas. “We’ve seen the failure of the grand jury system in other cases around the country, such as the case of Mike Brown who was killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri. We see the grand jury system as the way of shrouding the legal process in secrecy, because grand jury proceedings are secret. And prosecutors have an abundance of influence over the grand jury. So if they want an indictment, they’re able to present evidence in such a way that would result in an indictment. Vice versa is also true. If they’re not interested in an indictment, they’re able to present information that makes it significantly less likely that an indictment will occur.”
The group’s third demand is that federal terrorism charges be brought against the white supremacists who shot and wounded five Black Lives Matter supporters. The suspects in the shooting have been charged with rioting and assault. Levy-Pounds calls that a “slap on the wrist given the magnitude of the harm that they caused.” Police said the wounds to the Black Lives Matter supporters were “non-life threatening”, something Levy-Pounds calls “propaganda.” One of the victims showed his wounds to The UpTake and said the bullet is still lodged in his torso and he could die if the bullet is removed or if he makes any sudden moves.
Sleeping Giant Awakened For Civil Rights Movement Phase Two
For those expecting Black Lives Matter to go the way of the Occupy movement of several years ago, Levy-Pounds has some news. “I don’t think Black lives matter will disappear anytime soon. I believe that what has happened with the epidemic of unarmed black people being killed at the hands of police, being shown on video, the use of social media has amplified the message, that it’s awakened a sleeping giant.
“I would argue that we’ve entered phase two of the civil rights movement. There was lots of unfinished business on the table, when Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) was assassinated. And now this generation has been passed the torch to run the next leg of the race. And I believe that young people and Black Lives Matter are running that next leg of the race. And they’re inviting those of us who are awake to participate and to be on the front lines fighting for change.
“And so sometimes it takes a violent incident to awaken people to the truth, so they can rise up and take a stand for justice and fight for their own rights, as well as the rights of their children and their children’s children.”