As ample evidence of the continued sophistication and depth of strategic thinking present in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, an announced demonstration at the Mall of America was a decoy. Rather, the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport was the real target of the protest movement.
As The Uptake reported, the action was precipitated by the November shooting death of Jamar Clark, 24, of which Black protesters have demanded that police release the video of the shooting. And the protests this week as part of a coordinated six-city strategy also involving activists in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Chattanooga. According to a press statement released by #BlackLivesMatter, the group blocked entrances to the airport terminals to “protest Islamophobia and anti-black racism in airport policing. We protest the airport’s discriminatory profiling practices against Black people and anyone who is perceived to be Muslim, as part of a larger system that continues to kill and harm Black people without any justice.”
The Black-led organization also invoked the memory of Sandra Bland. Just two days earlier, a grand jury announced it would not seek an indictment in the death of the young Black woman who died in a Texas jail, days after her arrest in July.
“This young, vibrant black woman died in police custody, after a racially motivated stop, a brutal arrest, wrongful bail hearing and unlawful detention. We know Sandra Bland could have been any one of us,” said the statement.
Further, the protesters called for the following: the prosecution of the police in the Jamar Clark killing by a special prosecutor rather a grand jury; federal domestic terrorism charges against the white supremacists who recently shot five protesters in Minneapolis; a safety plan to protect the community from police violence, and a demand to “disinvest from police and reinvest in Black futures.”
“We protest the continued unmitigated state sanctioned violence against Black people and communities of color,” the Black protest group added. “We protest the continued denial of justice for Black people and Black communities. We want a complete overhaul of the justice system both locally and nationally.”
Black Lives MPLS tweeted their intentions as proof that the airport protest was not merely ad hoc, but part of the plan all along:
After a planned diversion at the mall we moved to the airport 5 min before the action was set to begin & shut down 2 airports. #BlackXmas
— Black Lives MPLS (@BlackLivesMpls) December 23, 2015
Police at airport are kettling peaceful protesters and forcing us to wait for a “bus” #BlackXmas
— Black Lives MPLS (@BlackLivesMpls) December 23, 2015
We just shut down America’s biggest mall, a light rail, the highway and an International airport. #BlackXmas is in full effect #BlackXmas2
— |||| || ||| | |||| | (@micamaryjane) December 23, 2015
@BlackLivesMpls has shut down the MSP airport pic.twitter.com/awoCmvttnn
— Micky Black (@mickynoir) December 23, 2015
Although the protest at the Mall of America, the largest mall in the country, was a “planned diversion” as they noted, the protest was still very real nonetheless. According to NBC News, stores closed, and Santa left his sleigh as hundreds of protesters chanted: “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
On the busiest shopping day of the entire year, officials of the mall, located in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, was concerned that protests would cut into retail sales. Therefore, the mall owners requested a court order to block the protest. The judge blocked three organizers from participating in the action, but said she lacked the authority to bar anyone else from showing up.
“The Court does not have a sufficient basis to issue an injunction as to Black Lives Matter or to unidentified persons who may be acting as its agents or in active concert with the Black Lives Matters movement,” wrote Hennepin County District Court Judge Karen Janisch, according to the Associated Press.
In addition, Janisch denied the Mall of America’s request to order #BlackLivesMatter to remove posts concerning the protest from social media and alert people that the demonstration was canceled. Attorneys for the protesters had argued that such an order would have been unconstitutional.
“When you disrupt their flow of capital … they actually start paying attention,” Kandace Montgomery, one of the blocked protest organizers, told NBC News. “That’s the only way that they’ll hear us.”
Montgomery also told the Associated Press that only barring three of the members of the “leader-full organization” does not stop their work. Around 80 stores were closed for an hour, according to ABC News.
“Mall of America has a longstanding policy banning political demonstrations and protests on our private property,” the mall said. “That policy is in place to protect the safety of all Mall of America guests, employees and tenants. The organizers of today’s protest were well aware of that policy. We respect the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. However, the courts have affirmed our right as private property owners to prohibit demonstrations on our property.”
In total, 15 people were arrested at both the mall and the airport, for trespassing and obstruction of justice, as the Seattle Times reported. On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Mark Dayton said the protests created a “very, very dangerous situation,” and questioned why such a demonstration was necessary, given that federal and local investigations into the Jamar Clark death were underway, and releasing the video could jeopardize investigations.
“They talk about this demonstration as being disruptive,” said protester Art Seratoff, 67, to the Seattle Times. “If I think about an unemployment rate in the African-American community three times the white unemployment rate — that’s disruptive.”