MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — Protesters with Black Lives Matter only briefly gathered at the Mall of America Wednesday afternoon before boarding light rail trains and heading to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in an attempt to "shut it down."
There, groups of protesters gathered at both terminals around 2 p.m., blocking traffic on Highway 5 and the roads into both terminals. Not long after, the State Patrol ordered the protesters to disperse.
Still, traffic into the state's main airport was at a virtual standstill the day before Christmas Eve, and a backup persisted into the afternoon. Terminal 2 checkpoints for Southwest and Sun Country airlines were temporarily closed to prevent protesters from gaining access to the secure areas of the busy airport. They were reopened at around 3:30 p.m.
Last week, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis announced that they would be protesting at nation's largest mall to draw attention to the police shooting last month of a black Minneapolis man, Jamar Clark. The 24-year-old died the day after he was shot by police responding to an assault complaint.
Police say eight people were arrested at the airport Wednesday, six of which were for unlawful assembly. Those individuals were ticketed and released.
The protesters tweeted on Wednesday that because Clark won't be celebrating Christmas this year, they would be shutting down the Mall of America, the light rail and MSP.
The protest at the mall was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. In preparation, Mall of America closed about 80 stores early on the mall's east side, and dozens of State Patrol and Bloomington Police officers stood outside several east entrances, blocking anyone from getting in. Once the protesters boarded the light rail and headed towards the airport, the doors were reopened.
"I never feel safe when there's a mess of them in military gear," Black Lives Matter Supporter Chauntyll Allen said at the protest. "Doesn't feel like they're protecting or serving us at all."
The Mall of America said Bloomington Police arrested four people at the protest -- three were arrested for trespassing and one was arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct. There was one unrelated arrest as well, for an outstanding warrant out of Olmstead County.
Police said no one was hurt and no property was damaged. The Mall released a statement Wednesday on the day's protest:
"Mall of America has a longstanding policy banning political demonstrations and protests on our private property. 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."
Not long after the scheduled start of the demonstration, protesters began walking out of the mall toward the Blue Line Light Rail.
Chants begin near blue line. pic.twitter.com/lAeiWVyCkR
— Susan-Elizabeth (@susanelizabethL) December 23, 2015
Many protesters boarded trains to MSP. Others stayed outside the mall and chanted as police in riot gear slowly herded the remaining protesters to buses and trains.
Protest organizers expected hundreds to take part in Wednesday's demonstration.
Still, protesters were satisfied with the outcome of the day's events.
"I think it was successful," Allen said. "We were able to shut down Terminal 1 and shut down the mall on the inside and outside."
She says the protest was intended to grab attention for a cause they say still hasn't been resolved in Minnesota.
A similar demonstration last December at the Mall of America drew hundreds of demonstrators angry over the absence of charges following the police killings of unarmed black men in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri. Stores in the mall had to close, and dozens of people were arrested.
The privately-owned mall said another demonstration would mean lost sales. The massive retail center in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington houses an amusement park and more than 500 shops spread across four floors, attracting shoppers from around the globe.
The mall sought a court order blocking the planned protest. A judge on Tuesday barred three organizers from attending the demonstration, but said she doesn't have the power to block unidentified protesters associated with Black Lives Matter — or the movement as a whole — from showing up.
Gov. Mark Dayton also told reporters Wednesday that 30 Minnesota State Patrol officers will be on scene at the local police department's request. He said he sympathizes with protesters' concerns, but he stressed that the mall is private property.
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 — including some who are prepared to be arrested.
On one of the busiest shopping days of the year, Montgomery said the retail mecca is the perfect venue for their demonstration to pressure authorities involved in the investigation of Clark's death to release video footage.
"When you disrupt their flow of capital ... they actually start paying attention," she said. "That's the only way that they'll hear us."
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