Emails released by Black Lives Matter supporters indicate Mall of America officials wanted to trespass Lush employees who showed solidarity with demonstrators.
In an email exchange two days after the December 20 anti-police brutality demonstration, Kathleen Allen, corporate counsel for the MOA, wrote to Bloomington City Attorney Sandy Johnson, "There is great concern over the behavior of the LUSH employees at MOA."
"The behavior is in clear violation of their Lease, and we are preparing a letter to their corporate representatives regarding the behavior of the employees and the resulting violations of their lease," Allen continues. "The question has been raised however, as to whether we should also trespass the manager and/or employees who cooperated in the behavior. The initial thought is that this would be a six (6) month trespass with a Restricted Access Permit allowing the employees to work during that time, but not be on the property outside of work hours."
After pointing out that the trespass notice would be from the MOA, and therefore wouldn't necessarily subject Lush employees to arrest, Allen's email ends on an ironic note.
"We feel it's important to reinforce with all staff that violations of the rules will not be tolerated," Allen writes. "At the same time we recognize that there is risk involved that this may become a media story -- and we don't want to impede any actions by your office or divert attention away from charges against the main culprits (organizers and leaders)."
Johnson, in response, writes, "A 6 month trespass with access for work only might send a good message to all persons employed at MOA." In another message, she explicitly states, "I am in agreement with a 6 mo trespass."
Later that same day, however, Allen writes to Johnson, "Just as an FYI, we are having additional discussions with our owners tomorrow, but they are not on board with trespassing the LUSH employees."
"We will be sending LUSH a warning/reprimand letter in accordance with their Lease, but they want to eliminate the potential for further press on this matter," she adds.
Johnson responds, "MOA can and should make its own decisions on the trespass."
Ultimately, Allen expresses a desire to hit Lush employees and other demonstrators with penalties stiff enough to provide a deterrent for other people considering demonstrating at the MOA going forward.
Ten demonstrators were ultimately charged in connection with the Black Lives Matter event, and they're due in court to enter pleas today, but supportive Lush employees weren't issued trespass notices.
The same day the above email exchange was taking place, one of MOA Lush's assistant managers, Chase Burns, told Fox 9, "Everybody was acting as an individual, but Lush tends to employ a lot of activists."
"Black Lives Matter is not in any way a Lush-sponsored thing, but [Lush corporate] is supporting the employees in the decision to act as individuals during the protest," Burns says.
Brandi Halls, director of brand communications for Lush, told us, "LUSH employees acted with respect and in full accordance with law enforcement."
"Due to the protest happening in the mall, our shop was closed and staff were asked to stay within our lease line, which again they did in accordance with that request," she added. "While not acting in any official LUSH capacity or as part of the organized protest, a few LUSH employees did, as individuals, raise their hands in solidarity of fairness and equality for all."
:::: UPDATE ::::
Bloomington city attorney Sandy Johnson sent us the following statement this morning:
The e mails were not leaked - they were provided to an apparent agent of BLM pursuant to a public data request, Mr. Tony Webster. Placing them in context, MOA was considering taking a civil legal action against the protestors and wanted my advice on that, as do many other victims of a crime (such as robbery or damage to property). I gave them my stock answer, you do what you have to do, but you might want to await the outcome of the prosecutions. I assured the MOA that the City was taking the matter very seriously and understood their concern that this was the third year in a row where protestors endangered the safety of their guests and disrupted the peace and quiet. I also told them - as with any other crime victim- to preserve the evidence that they had because it would soon evaporate once the charges came out.
Essentially - let us do our job as prosecutors and you do your job of maintaining a happy and safe venue for shoppers.
These emails do not constitute a 'smoking gun' and surely do not stand for the proposition that the City in its prosecution function is directed by the MOA.