Nearly a dozen protesters connected to the Black Lives Matter movement entered a plea of "not guilty" Tuesday morning to charges connected to a Mall of America demonstration. A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for May 1.
City Attorney Sandra Johnson is seeking $40,000 in restitution for police overtime and lost revenue.
11 protesters are charged with trespassing and other offenses for organizing the protest just before Christmas. Protest organizers collected 40,000 signatures asking that the charges be dropped.
"This is a clear attempt to silence our voices and the voices of many others in this movement demanding that Black people be treated like human beings," defendant Michael McDowell said after the hearing. "My first time in the back of a police car was when I was twelve; not because I was breaking the law or doing something wrong, but because I was being racially profiled. This system is set up to target and profile Black people."
Monday afternoon, Black Lives Matter released emails between the Mall of America and the Bloomington city attorney that they say shows the two worked together to push for charges against demonstrators.
"In the midst of these outrageous charges, let's not forget about the root issues that lead us to this point," defendant Adja Gildersleve said. "In Minnesota, we have some of the worst racial disparities in the country because there are systems of inequity embedded within our state's policies, institutions, and social fabric that do not value Black lives."
The demonstration happened on Super Saturday, one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday. Organizers said they wanted to "shut down the mall" to protest several cases in which police shot and killed unarmed men.
Bloomington police and mall security urged demonstrators to stay on public property across from the mall. But despite repeated warnings that it was illegal to protest on private property, 3,000 people gathered in the rotunda ignoring warnings to leave the mall.
25 people were arrested during the peaceful protest.