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More Than 100 Academics Call For Bloomington To Drop Charges

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After more than 100 religious leaders called for charges against Black Lives Matter protesters to be dropped earlier this week, researchers and professors from Twin Cities academic institutions are doing the same, according to the activist group.

Black Lives Matter says that 117 researchers, professors and academics have signed an open letter urging Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to end her prosecution of those charged following the Dec. 20, 2014, protest at the Mall of America.

"[W]e are deeply disappointed in the City of Bloomington's decision to use its considerable power to actually add to the obstacles that are blocking the movement toward a better, more peaceful, and more just society," the letter states.

The Mall of America protest, staged during one of the busiest days of the holiday shopping season, brought thousands of protesters to the mall to demonstrate following events in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City where unarmed black men were killed by white police officers. Bloomington officials responded to the protest by shutting down a section of the mall and stationing security in riot gear.

More than two dozen people were arrested. At least 10 protesters face various charges, including unlawful assembly, public nuisance, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.

Like the open letter signed by local religious leaders, the one signed by academics says that they're concerned over the city attorney's approach to dealing with the protesters. Their letter quotes Nekima Levy-Pounds, a University of St. Thomas law professor who is facing charges.

She wrote that the charges amount to "political persecution" and are a "gross misuse of prosecutorial discretion and a waste of taxpayer dollars."

Bloomington city officials say the protest cost more than $30,000 in police overtime and security costs. They also said they warned protesters that a demonstration was not allowed inside the mall, because it is private property.

The academics who signed the open letter work for several institutions, including the University of St. Thomas, the University of Minnesota, Carleton College, and Macalester College.

The signatures of the professors do not reflect the opinions of their employers, the activist group says.

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