Craig Lassig / Reuters

Legal challenge fails to block upcoming BLM protest at Mall of America

Protesters say action intended to draw attention to the Nov. 15 police killing of Minneapolis man Jamar Clark

Black Lives Matter protesters have renewed their vow to stage a demonstration at the Mall of America on the busy shopping day before Christmas Eve, following a judge's decision to allow the protest to go forward.

The protesters want to demonstrate at the country's biggest mall to draw attention to the Nov. 15 police killing of a black Minneapolis man, Jamar Clark, and to ramp up pressure on investigators to release video of the shooting. Authorities say they won't release it while state and federal investigations are ongoing.

The mall wants to avoid the type of disruption caused by a Christmas-time demonstration last year, when thousands of protesters angry over the absence of charges involving police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City prompted the mall to temporarily close stores. Dozens of people were arrested.

A lawsuit filed by the Mall of America names the group Black Lives Matter and four people as defendants. On Tuesday, the judge in the case partially rejected the mall's request to bar a demonstration without mall permission, and to require Black Lives Matter to remove social media posts supporting the protest and post notices that it is canceled.

District court judge Karen A. Janisch granted a restraining order against the four specific protesters named in the lawsuit, but denied a broader request by the Mall of America to block the protest entirely. The request to force removal of social media posts was also denied.

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said in a statement following that its protest would move forward, "[d]espite heavy handed attempts at intimidation and suppression of our First Amendment rights."

With the judge's limited ruling, it's unclear what additional steps the mall may take to curtail the protest. Deputy Bloomington Police Chief Denis Otterness declined to discuss any additional security measures the mall may put in place Wednesday.

Kandace Montgomery, one of three organizers barred by the judge's order, says the group isn't deterred by the ban. She declined to say if she or her fellow organizers still planned to go to the mall, but she said she expects at least 700 people to show up.

Police say Clark, 24, died during a struggle with officers. Others, though, say Clark was handcuffed at the time. Authorities have declined to release video of the shooting while state and federal investigations are underway.

Protest organizers are seeking a special prosecutor to be appointed in Clark's death rather than have a grand jury decide whether to charge the officers involved in his death. In addition they want federal terrorism charges to be brought against four men who shot at protesters outside a Minneapolis police precinct last month, injuring five.

Beyond barring the protest, the mall's request would also require organizers to send out notifications that the event has been canceled. The mall, which is privately owned and doesn't allow protests, contends that another demonstration would mean more lost sales for its vendors.

After attempting to directly dissuade Black Lives Matter from following through last week, mall attorney Susan Gaertner said a restraining order would make it clear that the mall prohibits demonstrations. Gaertner, told the judge the privately held retail center was not a place for a protest.

“You demonstrate in places like this, in a courthouse,” Gaertner told reporters afterward. “Mall of America on Wednesday is a place to take your kids to shop.”

She repeatedly stressed that the mall's opposition to Black Lives Matter was not about their message, but about the group's chosen venue and the potential for disrupting last-minute holiday shopping.

Jordan Kushner, an attorney for several Black Lives Matter organizers named in the mall's lawsuit, called the mall's demands unconstitutional.

“They could tell people to stay away from their property, but they cannot tell people what to say or what not to say,” Kushner said. “It's trying to control their speech.”

Al Jazeera and wire services 

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