BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KMSP) - On Tuesday, a Hennepin County judge dismissed all charges against the leaders of last year’s Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America. But in many ways, the decision was a win for the mall too.
The first sentence of Hennepin County chief judge Peter Cahill's order reads: “The MOA is private property.” With that one sentence, Cahill handed the mall a big win.
“If you’re a private property owner, you have a general right to exclude free expression from your property,” Steve Aggergaard, a first amendment attorney at Bassford Remele, said.
He points out that the 2014 protesters argued their demonstration was different from a protest at the mall in 1995 against fur at the mall. In that case, called Wicklund, the state Supreme Court ruled the mall was private and could ban the protesters.
In his decision, Cahill determined the Wicklund ruling is the law of the land.
"[The] ruling reaffirms our position that Mall of America is private property,” The MOA’s attorney told Fox 9. “As such, the ruling is clear that the mall is not a public forum for protest or debate."
Aggergaard said it is a mixed bag on whether the decision is a win or loss for free speech.
Moving forward, Cahilll provided an almost road map on how to avoid future legal disagreements like this one.
For police, Cahill implied that rather than stand around, they should make it clear right away that protestors need to leave.
For the mall, he suggested they file an injunction.
“Other private property owners, whether they be malls, or owners, would likely take this decision from Judge Cahill and reach out to the court system for help ahead of time instead of after,” Aggergaard said.
Cahill also rejected arguments that coordination with the city made the mall more like public property. While he praised both the mall and protesters for their coordination, he cautioned that not all demonstrations may unfold as "peacefully" as this one did.