MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - In a victory for the organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America last year, Hennepin County Chief Judge Peter Cahill dismissed all charges against the eleven leaders who organized the protest, and dismissed some other charges against participants.
In a 137-page ruling, Judge Cahill dismissed all charges against the leaders, and dismissed disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly charges against eleven participants arrested at the protest. However, the judge did not dismiss trespassing and obstruction charges against fifteen of the protesters arrested at the mall. He ordered those cases to proceed to trial.
In explaining the dismissal of charges against the leaders, Chief Judge Cahill wrote that it “bears repeating that each of the Leader/Organizer Defendants who was actually at the MOA on December 20 left upon demand by MOA security to BPD personnel and none was arrested at the MOA that day.”
In explaining the dismissal of disorderly conduct charges, the judge reasoned that the law only prohibits “fighting words” and that comments of protesters did not rise to inciting violence. As for dismissing the unlawful assembly charges, the judge said the state presented no evidence showing “any of the defendants charged…disturbed or threatened the public peace by provoking the commission of other, serious crimes.”
Chief Judge Cahill rejected the argument that the privately-owned mall had to allow political demonstrations as a matter of constitutional law, or that the mall and city of Bloomington were so entwined as to render the mall a “quasi-state” actor.
The judge did note that the mall seemed to allow the demonstration for the first half hour by not issuing any explicit orders to leave. And that the MOA did not pursue any court action before the protest to enjoin the demonstration.
Chief Judge Cahill concluded his order, stating that the court “commends the conduct of certain of the Leaders/Organizer Defendants in communicating with officials of the MOA, the BPD, and the Bloomington City Attorney’s Office in advance of the demonstration” and the “general actions and conduct of MOA security and BPD officers” at the protest.
Statement from Black Lives Matter Minneapolis
"BLM Minneapolis will continue to support those with charges still standing, protestors shouldn't be punished for standing up for Black lives. We will continue to fight to make all Black Lives Matter!"
Statement from ACLU-MN executive director Charles Samuelson
“Freedom of speech and assembly are fundamental rights that are the bedrock of all of our other rights. We have said from the beginning that the Black Lives Matter demonstrators were peacefully exercising their rights, which should be protected above any corporate interest. As Chief Judge Cahill’s decision states, ‘The BLM Demonstration at the MOA Was Not Automatically Rendered Unlawful for Purposes of the Unlawful Assembly Statute Simply Because It Was Unauthorized.’ We applaud the decision to dismiss charges against Montgomery and 11 others but we continue to call on Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to dismiss the charges against all of the defendants.”