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Religious Leaders Urge Bloomington Drop Charges Against MOA Protesters

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - More than 100 religious leaders are urging Bloomington's city attorney to end the "aggressive prosecution" of the leaders of the group "Black Lives Matter."

City Attorney Sandra Johnson announced on Jan. 14 that she was charging ten people who organized a large protest at Mall of America on Dec. 20, 2014.

An open letter sent to Johnson on Monday was signed by more than 100 religious leaders, including ten Bloomington clergy members, from six congregations.

"The energy you have put into this aggressive prosecution needs to be redirected to a community-wide effort toward open dialogue between our justice system and those who do not receive equal and fair treatment and protection from our current system," the letter reads.

Johnson has said that the charges are based on a 1999 court ruling that the Mall of America is private property and not subject to protests without permission.

"If you don't charge one group because you agree with its message, you're discriminating against the next group of you decide to prosecute in that case. It really does tie your hands about any future prosecution," Johnson said.

A previous letter from religious leaders called the charges filed against organizers of a non-violent demonstration "disturbing and patently unfair."

A Black Lives Matter press release compared the city of Bloomington's prosecution to an incident in Oakland, California, in which the Bay Area transit authority is seeking $70,000 in restitution fees after two dozen black activists chained themselves to two trains, shutting down service for three hours.

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