Black Lives Matter Protests Cause Disruptions at Airport, Mall of America

November 15, 2017 10:41 AM

Protesters blocked roads and caused significant holiday traffic delays around the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Wednesday after staging a rally that briefly shut down part of the nation's largest mall.
    
Police said eight people were arrested at the airport in relation to the protest, where officials said access to one of two terminals was blocked, causing backups on nearby roads. Some protesters took a light-rail train to the airport from the Mall of America, where protesters started the Black Lives Matter rally to bring attention to a recent police shooting of a black man in Minneapolis. Five arrests were made at the mall; one arrest was unrelated to the protest and because of an outstanding warrant.

A Black Lives Matter activist says the Mall of America was used as "a decoy" to start a protest that quickly moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
    
Hoping to draw attention to a recent police shooting of a black man in Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters briefly gathered inside the nation's largest shopping mall before abruptly walking out.
    
Some protesters then went to a nearby light-rail train station to head to the airport, where demonstrators temporarily blocked access to a terminal.
    
Miski Noor, a protest organizer, says "the mall was a decoy." She said she believes it was effective.
   
Gov. Mark Dayton questioned the need for such a demonstration, noting that federal and state investigations are ongoing into the death of Jamar Clark, who was shot by Minneapolis police responding to an assault complaint. Dayton said releasing video of officers' altercation with Clark could jeopardize the investigations.
    
About 500 protesters initially gathered at the Mall of America early Wednesday afternoon, then abruptly walked out while chanting, "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" Protesters peacefully went to a nearby light-rail train station that allowed quick access to the airport a few miles away.
    
Dozens of stores closed their gates, kiosks were covered and even Santa left his sleigh shortly before protesters gathered at the massive shopping district on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Numerous signs were posted on mall property, saying no protests were allowed - including a long message on a screen in a central rotunda between two Christmas trees.
    
Police quickly closed the mall's main entrances and threatened arrests.

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"Mall of America Security along with Bloomington Police and numerous other law enforcement agencies responded quickly today to end an illegal protest by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis," Mall of America officials said in a statement. "Approximately 80 stores on the Mall’s east side were closed for about an hour while law enforcement officers escorted remaining protesters off Mall of America property. The rest of the Mall remained open. Bloomington Police made four arrests; a fifth individual was arrested on unrelated charges."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has learned that police arrested the brother of Clark at the Mall of America protest. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Alexander Deshawn Clark was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant from Olmsted County.

A similar demonstration last December 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 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.
    
Neither mall officials nor Bloomington police said what security measures they put in place to prepare for the protest, though special event staff members searched bags and stationed at every mall entrance. Security guards cordoned off parts of the central rotunda, and officers from several cities patrolled inside.
    
The mall sought a court order blocking the planned protest. A judge Tuesday barred three organizers from attending the demonstration, but said she didn't have the power to block unidentified protesters associated with Black Lives Matter - or the movement as a whole - from showing up.
    
Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Denis Otterness confirmed officers would be at the mall, but declined to discuss their plans for handling the protest.
    
"Our No. 1 priority is the safety of everybody out at the Mall of America today," he said Wednesday morning.
  
Kandace Montgomery, one of three organizers barred by the judge's order, said the group wasn'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 expected hundreds of protesters to show up - including some prepared to be arrested.
    
Montgomery said the retail mecca was 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."

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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