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Black Lives Matters set for Mall of America demo despite organizers' ban

Kandace Montgomery, one of three activists barred by the judge's order, says group not deterred from protest

Black Lives Matter activists expect hundreds of protesters to descend on the Mall of America on Wednesday as part of action aimed at drawing attention to the police killing of a black Minneapolis man. The planned demonstration, which coincides with the busy shopping day before Christmas Eve, comes a day after a judge barred three of the organizers from attending the action, but said she couldn't stop others from taking part.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Karen Janisch on Tuesday ruled that three individuals named as defendants in the mall's lawsuit could not attend the demonstration, but she limited her order to them. The mall had sought to block the entire Black Lives Matter group from protesting.

"The Court does not have a sufficient basis to issue an injunction as to Black Lives Matters or to unidentified persons who may be acting as its agents or in active concert with the Black Lives Matters movement," she wrote. 

The judge also denied the mall's request to order the organizers to remove posts about the protest from social media and to alert followers that the demonstration had been canceled. The organizers' attorney argued during a Monday hearing that those demands were clearly unconstitutional.

But the mall said it should be able to prevent protests from occurring on its own property.

The court is saying that "the Mall of America is private property, the Mall of America has a right to prohibit demonstrations on its property. This order, in particular, sends that message very directly," Susan Gaertner, an attorney for the Mall of America told Al Jazeera.  

Gaertner repeatedly stressed at Monday's hearing that the mall's opposition to the Black Lives Matter protest is not about their message, but the venue and the protests potential for disrupting last-minute holiday shopping.

Protest organizers want to draw attention to the Nov. 15 police shooting of a black Minneapolis man, Jamar Clark, who died a day later. They also want to ramp up the pressure on investigators to release video of the incident. Authorities say they won't release it while state and federal investigations are ongoing.

The mall sought a restraining order after the group said last week it planned a return protest at the mall, where about 1,500 people protested last December over the deaths of black men in police-involved incidents in New York and Missouri. About two-dozen people were arrested in that protest. Last year's protest was the last Saturday before Christmas.

Kandace Montgomery, one of three organizers barred by the judge's order, said 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.

"We are a leader-full organization. Just barring three of us does not mean that you've stopped our work," she said.

"When black people get free, we all get free because the oppression that we face is replicated in other forms for different people and this is one of those perfect examples. So I think more people are feeling this violation of their values — that a corporation is trying to tell people what to tweet, what to Facebook and where they can protest," Montgomery told Al Jazeera. 

When asked if she would try to get into the mall for the protest despite the judge's ruling, Montgomery said simply "they'll see," while also adding "I'm going to really trust folks to be able to hold down the protests and support folks in other ways."  

Protest organizers want 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.

Al Jazeera and wire services. Andy Roesgen and Kayla McCormick contributed to this report.

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