At least 20 demonstrators were arrested at the Mall of America megamall Saturday afternoon, as they chanted "black lives matter" and "no justice, no peace" then staged a silent "die-in," protesting the police killings of Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and causing inconvenience for holiday season consumers.
The Mall of America frantically attempted to get the demonstrators, numbering in the hundreds, to leave, announcing that the demonstration violated stated policy at the megamall.
When the demonstrators unveiled a banner reading, "Hands Up Don't Shoot," the popular slogan of protest against the killing of Brown and subsequent failure to press criminal charges against his killer, police officer Darren Wilson, mall management responded with a protest of its own, flashed on a large video screen.
"This demonstration is not authorized and is in clear violation of Mall of America policy. We expect all participants to disperse at this time. Those who continue to demonstrate will be subject to arrest."The number of arrested demonstrators was reported to be as high as 25, but the demonstration was generally peaceful and the protesters had words of praise for the patient approach displayed by police officers.
"They could have arrested me, they could have escorted me. They just asked me nicely to leave, and I did," demonstration organizer Michael McDowell told a local TV station.
"We gave opportunities to leave, we repeated those notifications, every time a notification went out, frankly it got so loud that the crowd drowned them out but we continued to tell people to leave and after a time, most of them began to," Bloomington, Minnesota Police Commander Mark Stehlik said.
Another group of protestors entering the main corridor chanting"hands up don't shoot" #blacklivesmatter https://t.co/A3Uc9OxXR7Mall of America management later issued a statement scolding the protesters.
— John Croman (@JohnCroman) December 20, 2014
"We are extremely disappointed that organizers of Black Lives Matter protest chose to ignore our stated policy and repeated reminders that political protests and demonstrations are not allowed on Mall of America property," the statement read.
But Bloomington prosecutors said they do not plan to treat the arrested demonstrators as nicely.
"They knowingly broke the law. They were involved in a situation that was very potentially dangerous," warned prosecutor Sandra Johnson.
The Mall of America is, by its own estimation, the largest megamall in the country with more than 500 shopping establishments in an area — according to Mall of America publicity — seven times the size of New York City's Yankee Stadium.
Management at the megamall closed down about half the stores inside Mall of America while the protests were taking place and the 20 to 25 protesters were arrested. There was no report on whether the mall's indoor roller coaster continued to operate, however.