Nearly a dozen protesters charged with illegally demonstrating at the Mall of America were back in court Friday morning. In March, the "MOA 11" pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the December protest. Friday, they returned to court for a pre-trial hearing, but hundreds of supporters are expected to join a rally to denounce what they call the "political prosecution" of Black Lives Matter.
More than 3,000 demonstrators filled the Mall of America rotunda on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. 25 people were charged in the peaceful protest. VIEW PHOTOS
Organizers say the mall worked with Bloomington police prior to the demonstration, including monitoring social media, to make a case for criminal charges. Mall of America has pointed to its longstanding policy that bans protests, and said they tried to communicate with Black Lives Matter protesters, who chose to ignore any warnings. The mall said it will not pursue any civil action.
'Chilling effect' on freedom of speech
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is now providing legal counsel to the organizers who face misdemeanor charges, including trespassing.
"The excessive charges brought against our client, Kandace Montgomery, are unnecessary and have a chilling effect on the freedoms of speech and of association," ACLU-MN executive director Charles Samuelson said in a statement.
ACLU-MN believes that even though the Mall of America had an unusually close relationship with law enforcement leading up to the protests, that shouldn't prevent demonstrators from expressing their first amendment rights.
Walkout and rally at MLK Park
At 10 a.m. Friday, Black Lives Matter is hosting a student walk out and rally at Martin Luther King Park on Nicollet Avenue to support the MOA 11. They will also join in solidarity with the International Workers Day March.