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Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters rally at Minnesota mall, airport

Actions coincide with one of the busiest shopping and travel days of the holiday season

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists on Wednesday marched through Minnesota's Mall of America before converging on Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where protesters blocked roads and police made arrests. The actions, which were in response to the November shooting of a black man by Minneapolis police, coincided with one of the busiest shopping and travel days of the holiday season.

After police and mall security dispersed a march at Mall of America in Bloomington, located 10 miles south of Minneapolis, the protesters took a light rail train to the airport where they briefly shut down roadways to both terminals, an airport spokesman said.

Access to one of two terminals was closed after more than 100 protesters gathered inside and blocked roads leading to the airport, prompting two security checkpoints to shut down for about 45 minutes, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. He said the protest caused some flight delays but no cancellations.

"The mall was a decoy," said Black Lives Matter organizer Miski Noor, who protested at the airport. "I think it was really effective."

Police said a total of 15 people were arrested at both sites, mostly for trespassing or obstruction of justice. No injuries or property damage were reported.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday afternoon that the moving protest created a "very, very dangerous situation."

Dayton questioned the need for such a demonstration, noting that federal and state investigations were ongoing into the death of Jamar Clark, who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police responding to an assault complaint. The governor said releasing video of officers' altercation with Clark, as demanded by protesters, could jeopardize the investigations.

Prior to converging on the airport, some 500 protesters marched through Mall of America, one of the largest malls in the country, despite a judge’s warning that the property’s owners could legally block the protest.

The actions were aimed at drawing attention to the Nov. 15 police shooting of a black Minneapolis man, Jamar Clark, who died a day later. Protesters also wanted to increase pressure on investigators to release video of the incident. Authorities have said they won't release footage while state and federal investigations are ongoing.

Organizers also said they want a special prosecutor, rather than a grand jury, to decide on whether to charge the police officers involved in Clark’s death. They’ve also called for federal terrorism charges to be brought against four men who shot at protesters outside a Minneapolis police precinct last month, injuring five.

Also on Wednesday, California Highway Patrol said it arrested nine women blocking southbound traffic on the 101 freeway near the San Francisco International Airport.

Images of the demonstrators uploaded to social media showed them holding a sign demanding justice for Mario Woods, a black man suspected of a San Francisco stabbing, who police shot dead.

A statement from Black Lives Matter declared Wednesday to be "Black Xmas," which was described as "a day of action to reject the degredation of Black families and communities by police, politicians, and predatory companies, and declare our inherent worth."

Wednesday's actions were the latest in a series of nationwide protests led by members of Black Lives Matter against police violence. The large-scale protests began in the summer of 2014 following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

More than a dozen Mall of America stores shut their doors early on Wednesday before the protest could begin. Special staff members were stationed at every mall entrance, where they searched guests’ bags.

Dayton had earlier announced that 30 Minnesota State Patrol officers would help handle the expected protest.

The mall had 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.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Karen Janisch on Tuesday ruled that three individuals named as defendants in the mall's lawsuit against organizers of the previous action could not attend the latest protest, 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 protest 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 rather about the venue and the protests' potential for disrupting last-minute holiday shopping.

Kandace Montgomery, one of three organizers barred by the judge's order, said the group wouldn’t be deterred by the ban. She declined ahead of the protest to say if she or her fellow organizers still planned to attend, but said she expected at least 700 people to participate.

"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.

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

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