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Disruptive acts have a legitimate purpose in waking us up to bias and injustice — and encouraging change

MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Martin Luther King Day march from Snelling and University Avenues to the Minnesota Capitol organized by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis in January.

Last semester, as the protests that began in Ferguson, Missouri, began to spread across the country and coalesce into the movement that is now colloquially referred to as #BlackLivesMatter, I was teaching a course on social movements and a course on citizenship, or full membership in political community. As I followed the news coverage of actions taken in Ferguson in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown, I felt that these emerging events must be incorporated into my courses. The #BlackLivesMatter protests were directly relevant to the content of the courses I was teaching. I thought that by illustrating course content with contemporary examples, students would become more engaged in studying course materials.

On the whole, students were broadly sympathetic to the main goals of the movement: increased accountability for police officers who use force against the populations they have sworn to protect and ending racially discriminatory police practices. However, when students did voice an objection to the movement, it wasn’t focused on the goals but instead on the tactics. They would ask me, “Why shut down freeways? Why protest at the Mall of America? What does any of that have to do with cops and white supremacy?”

It’s an honest question coming from students who are just learning about civil disobedience and the disruptive tactics used by social movements. Technically, neither shutting down freeways nor staging a die-in at the Mall of America qualifies as civil disobedience. Civil disobedience only occurs when people break a law they believe is unjust and accept the consequences of breaking the law because they believe doing so will demonstrate the injustice of the law. Since the #BlackLivesMatter protesters (myself included) are not illustrating the injustice of traffic laws or trespassing laws, these disruptive protests do not meet the strict definition of civil disobedience. My students who were attempting for the first time to grapple with the concept did have a point there.

This is a common dismissal of the actions taken by the #BlackLivesMatter activists and protesters: There isn’t a close connection between the grievances they voice and the disruptions that they are causing. Their (our) actions are seen as misguided or arbitrary, not as focused or legitimate as similar actions by earlier civil rights activists (like the lunch counter sit-ins in the South). However, what is missed in this dismissal of the disruptive tactics of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is the fact that formal, legal conditions have changed.

Injustice while laws appear just

Explicitly racially discriminatory laws are now illegal. Because the earlier civil rights movement managed to achieve formal, legal equality, breaking explicitly racist laws as an act of civil disobedience is much more difficult to do. Our laws often seem just on paper, but perpetuate injustice in their practice (through discriminatory uses of police discretion and differential treatment throughout the process of prosecution and punishment). How can protesters use civil disobedience to illustrate injustice when the laws appear neutral without actually being so in practice?

At the same time that the laws in our country have changed, so has changed the way racism works in this country. Whereas before white supremacy was formally enshrined in many laws that were easier to point to as explicitly unjust, conditions have changed such that white supremacy is built into our informal practices in more subtle and diffuse ways. Much important research has been done on unconscious bias and the way it shapes interpersonal interaction. We now know that growing up in a society in which negative and pervasive stereotypes of people of color — and especially black people — are pervasive causes all people (including well-meaning white people and people of color themselves) to internalize negative associations that impact their judgments about and interactions with others. This learned unconscious bias benefits whites and disadvantages people of color, even in the absence of explicitly racially discriminatory laws.

White supremacy is so deeply a part of our social structure that any disruption of “business as usual” can be understood as an opportunity to make us conscious of the continued oppression of people of color in the United States. Actions such as freeway closures and die-ins may not strictly qualify as civil disobedience, but in a culture that promotes the internalization of unconscious biases against people of color — and especially black people — disrupting the normal, day-to-day functions of society can be seen as vitally necessary to help us wake up from our unconscious acceptance of how things are and work toward a more just and inclusive political community.

Charges should be dropped

It’s for these reasons that I stand with the MOA 11. I urge the City of Bloomington and Mall of America to drop all of the charges against the protesters. I also encourage everyone who can to stand with the protesters at their hearings in the Hennepin County Courts. For more information about attending the hearings, go here.

Kathleen Cole, Ph.D., is a political science professor in the Social Science Department at Metropolitan State University. Her views do not necessarily represent the views of her employer. Although she has participated in protest actions organized by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, she is not an organizer and does not speak on the behalf of the group. 


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Comments (43)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 03/03/2015 - 02:36 pm.

    I’m hoping the civil disobedience you’re talking about did not include burning down businesses, torching cop cars who tax payers have to pay for, random shots fired at cops and firemen or any other criminal act. That is not civil disobedience, that is criminal activity.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/03/2015 - 02:43 pm.


    “… in a culture that promotes the internalization of unconscious biases against people of color — and especially black people — disrupting the normal, day-to-day functions of society can be seen as vitally necessary …”

    A local TV news station interviewed people at the megamall who had been greatly inconvenienced by the protesters laying down in front of the stores while people attempted to complete their Christmas shopping. One of the people who was most upset and outraged and who had zero empathy for the tactics that were employed by the protesters, was a young black woman. She spared no invective as she ranted against the strategy and tactics. I guess she didn’t get the memo.

  3. Submitted by Michael Hess on 03/03/2015 - 03:06 pm.


    It would help if the author could cite the last large unsanctioned political protest at the Mall of America by another group that was not followed by criminal charges, to establish if this prosecution is truly unjust.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/03/2015 - 03:51 pm.

    Accepting the consequences of trespassing the MOA will not demonstrate the injustice of private property, or any law protecting an owners exclusive right to enjoy it in whatever manner they choose; to extend offers to share it or to with hold an invitation.

    There is a lesson in there for the Professor.

  5. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/03/2015 - 04:15 pm.

    A question

    For the law and order types commenting here. What exactly should the punishment be for the protesters? Should it be jail time, or more like the 100 hours of community service handed out yesterday to Philip Nelson for kicking Isaac Kolstad in the head. That kick changed Kolstad’s life and his families life for ever, and yet, no jail time.

    So, what should it be for the protesters, who while ruffling the law and order types delicate sensibilities, stopped nobody from actually shopping that day. I’m guessing that none of the commenters here were actually at the Mall that day, but their umbrage is still justified, they saw it on TV and that is enough.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/03/2015 - 05:08 pm.

      Those arrested

      and convicted should be made to pay restitution to the merchants who lost revenue during the busiest time of year. Merchants could submit estimates of their losses based on history for that day in the shopping season, the totals to be divided equally amongst those convicted.

      A real “law and order type” would also add jail time.

      • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/04/2015 - 07:29 am.


        followed this case pretty closely, and other than wild speculation on the part of people not in the know claiming that retailers were harmed by the protests, that most likely is not one of the metrics to measure anything that day. Provide a single case of a retailer with actual YTD numbers that they suffered at the till that day, and then prove the protests were the cause. No fair using a store that was not involved, like one at the opposite end of the mall.. The TV media spewed all sorts of nonsense about it, but I’ve not seen any indication it actually happened. You don’t know either.
        I wonder does a big snow storm have an adverse effect on sales at the mall on any given day. If so, how on earth do retailers survive such a calamity – I mean really, how do they do it.

  6. Submitted by Everett Flynn on 03/03/2015 - 06:59 pm.

    MOA is a private, but appropriate location for protest

    Let’s be clear. Not all lawbreakers are equal. Not all protests must take place on property which is strictly public. The Mall of America is private retail space, but it was created with a large public subsidy and it serves as a gathering space for the public. The Rotunda at the MOA in many instances serves a function very similar to a public square. Because of that, it is reasonable for those who seek to make a demonstration of civil action to choose that location. The acts of these protesters was not riotous, there was no effort to damage private property. They sought merely to attract attention to their cause. Yes, strictly speaking, their action on technically ‘private’ property could be construed as trespassing. Yes, their action disrupted the commerce of the MOA, and yes, their action required intervention of police at some expense to the mall, to retailers at the mall, and to the City of Bloomington. As in other, more traditional acts of civil disobedience, some were taken into custody. But no, they should not have been charged, and no, they should not be prosecuted. We need to remember that commerce doesn’t have primacy in our society. Sure, it’s important, but it is not the most important element in American civil society. Public discourse is also important. In this country, protest is older than the nation itself and we should be extremely careful about taking actions that effectively inhibit civil actors from exercising their right to protest.

    Imagine a group holding a protest in front of Target, or Target Field, or at 3M or General Mills. They could disrupt traffic on nearby streets, they could block access at entrances and might be trespassing on technically ‘private’ property in doing so. It would be inconvenient, as was the MOA protest. It would be disruptive to commerce, as was the MOA protest, and it would be legitimate civil action. Just because the MOA is technically ‘private’ property does not mean the MOA, nor the City of Bloomington can ignore the status of that property as gathering space and, effectively, as a public square. The protest was civil and it was relevant to a discourse taking place locally and across the nation. The proper response by the City and the MOA is to detain and arrest a number of the protesters, cite them for trespass, and leave it at that. Such action would be proportionate and in line with other actions of civil disobedience. To pursue this action of prosecution of protesters attempts to impose sanctions out of all proportion to an act of civil disobedience. The blind adherence to this strategy by the prosecutor in Bloomington stands as an example of precisely the kind of abuse of discretion to which the protesters sought to bring public attention in the first place. It is shameful and the attitudes reflected by that action and by those who allege it’s appropriate are precisely what needs to be changed and precisely why this protest and others like it are necessary. Our society sorely needs this discourse. It doesn’t need to prosecute civil protesters.

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 03/03/2015 - 09:13 pm.

    What is the evidence

    So it is OK to classify closing the highways and trespassing as civil disobedience acts. But then it should be OK to loot the stores – and present it as civil disobedience… And that is what people in Ferguson did so I guess the author supports their actions as well.

    I also wonder where is the evidence that the death of Michael Brown has anything to do with racial discrimination and the use of excessive force..

  8. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/04/2015 - 09:22 am.

    Trespassing prosecutions

    Yes, they MOA people trespassed and the city has a right to prosecute them. What is the normal penalty for trespassing in our state courts. I’d bet it is something like a tiny fine or a few hours of community service or a suspended sentence for someone with no other record.

    It is often the case that prosecutors look at the level of the crime and the cost to take them to court. Often they then drop the charges or reach a nonjudicial settlement. Doesn’t sound like either of those things will happen here, based on the condescending remarks by the Bloomington City Attorney this week.

    Since the protestors, from what I’ve read, caused no destruction of any property I’d like to know the legal basis for suing them for monetary damages. If the MOA can find an actual customer who was physically restrained from making a purchase that would be one thing. But they are going to have all these store owners make up numbers about how much they lost and then the city will fine or sue the protest leaders for that amount? That is bull and that is a sign that these people have been singled out in a way that nonpolitical trespassers wouldn’t be. That city attorney claims to have the law in mind but going after fictional monetary damages is absurd.

    So I get stopped during rush hour for driving with a bad headlight and it causes a traffic jam and people are late for work and earn less that day. Do the courts then come after me for monetary damages for everyone affected by the traffic jam?

    I think some of the comments here reek of closeted racism.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 02:08 pm.

      Or a few days in jail

      Convicted trespassers from the Honeywell Project back in the 80s got 3-4 day in jail on occasion.

      • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/04/2015 - 03:50 pm.

        which is a lot easier to take…

        …then paying the costs of all the cops the city decided to pay overtime to plus all the mythical “losses” the stores may claim to have suffered. And I bet the Honeywell protestors took the time in jail over the fifty or hundred dollar fine to continue the point they were trying to make, which was that the war was a bigger wrong than their trespassing, just as the racial discrimination by some police is a bigger wrong than trespassing. And now the justice department has issued a report showing all the illegal, immoral activities of the Ferguson police department. Maybe a similar study of the pattern or arrests at the MOA would be instructive. Maybe if Honeywell and all the war lovers had tried to bankrupt the protestors they could have more effectively stifled dissent.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 05:16 pm.


          We’ll see if those attempts to recover “costs” for stuff really materialize. I wouldn’t be surprised if that goes away. But I think if someone offers these guys a plea deal they’d better take it. Fishing for discrimination at the mall isn’t going to help anyone, again, private property rules prevail. Didn’t they ban teenagers below a certain age or something a while back?

          But again, it doesn’t actually look like these demonstrators set out to get arrested to make that point. It looks to me like they didn’t expect to get arrested, or at least if they got arrested they expected the charges would be dropped. They should have known better on both counts. And I still say getting arrested for trespassing at the MOA is not a clear strike against racial bias in America. Trespassing in malls wasn’t the point of the demonstration.

          I think this whole thing was just a big fail in the end.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 10:33 am.

    This is settled law

    I don’t know why people have soooo much trouble with. Whether or not Mall’s like the MOA have to allow demonstrations of free speech is settled law… they don’t.

    Maybe people don’t know that means so let’s explain it. “Settled Law” is law that has been decided by requisite appellate courts. In this case the MN State Supreme Court has decided that even malls like the MOA that were built with substantial public assistance are private property, and they can enforce trespassing laws that ban unauthorized political protest. In other words, 1st Amendment speech rights don’t exist on private property. Not only is this settled law in MN, but with few exceptions such rulings have prevailed in State and Federal courts all over the country over the last several decades.

    So what does that mean? It means you don’t get to challenge the law at trial. Think bank robbery- if you get arrested for robbing a bank, you can argue that you’re innocent: “you got the wrong guy”, but you can’t argue that the law against robbing banks is unconstitutional or invalid because THAT question has been settled.

    Now there are several bizarre features of this protest.

    For one thing for some bizarre reason, despite the fact that apparently some law professors were involved in organizing the protest… participants didn’t realize they were dealing with settled law. Apparently participants didn’t realize they were trespassing, and that they could and would be arrested and charged with trespassing. This seems to have taken them by surprise. Why?

    Traditionally protest organizers kind of have a responsibility to make participants aware of the laws they are breaking and the possible charges and penalties they may face if they get arrested. This is the difference between civil disobedience and mere protest. You need to know whether or not your risking arrest. Did these organizers make that clear? Did they understand this themselves?

    At any rate, participants were warned repeatedly, publicly, and even in some cases privately that they would face arrest. And mall owners and police even took the unusual step of offering an alternate site for the demonstration.

    Now you can complain about the free speech laws that govern shopping malls if you want, but THAT was not the target of this demonstration, and that’s another bizarre feature of this protest… it location. Why the MOA? Why are you protesting the police killing of an unarmed teen in another state at the MOA? The MOA has nothing to do with this.

    Presumably the organizers choose the mall because it was warm and comfortable, and they reckoned it would garner media attention. But let’s think about message for a few moments. We’re going to bravely declare that “Black Lives Matter”, but only if we can issue that declaration in the comparative comfort of an indoor shopping mall? We’re not willing to stand in the cold in front of a location that’s actually related to the injustice somehow? We not willing to stand in front of a Court House, Jail, City Hall, or Police Headquarters, and make this big declaration?

    Beyond the issue of comfort, these demonstrators aren’t willing to take any risks? You compare yourself to Martin Luther King… do you have any idea how much time MLK spent in jail? The whole point of civil disobedience is to get arrested, not complain about being arrested.

    The other bizarre feature of this demonstration is the weird assumption that the MOA would allow it. It’s clear for soooooo many reasons, and I hate to say it, but good reasons, no mall is going to allow political demonstrations. This is how this all became settled law in the first place. Were the charges to be dropped in this case it would be an open invitation for similar demonstrations no only malls, but at the largest mall in the country. Like it or not, the rationale is clear and very very very predictable. So again, why would you think to you could do this and either not be charged, or have the charges dropped?

    What I see here a collision between a somewhat bizarre sense of entitlement, and the settled law, and property right. Entitlement is not going to win, and I hate to say but I don’t think most of think it should win in this case.

    Ultimately this demonstration has lost it’s impact because instead of debating-arguing-discussing police brutality we’re trying to get trespassing charges dropped. Way to blur the message and blunt the impact of a demonstration folks.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/04/2015 - 11:25 am.

      Paul, you mind reader

      You make a lot of assumptions about the protestors, their motives, understanding of the law, their need for comfortable surroundings. As someone who is apparently so versed in the law, you should be familiar with the normal disposition of ordinary trespassing cases. I believe the protestors who stayed long enough to get arrested were prepared to face those consequences, although that could be mind reading on my part.

      I imagine that when people were trespassing at the U to protest ROTC during the Viet Nam war they were breaking the same laws. I’d like to know the consequences they faced and would say that these people should face a similar consequence.

      What is different this time is that the Bloomington City Attorney has decided to attack them for an unspecified loss of business by the stores at the mall and for the cost of policing the event. This is obviously, to me, an attempt to economically crush dissent. I believe this is immoral if not unconstitutional. We don’t charge normal criminals a fine for the police time to arrest them. The rich people that own the mall and the white people that run Bloomington city hall have a big grudge against these people

      By the way this isn’t just about a single killing in Ferguson. That is just the tip of an iceberg of racial prejudice and profiling by the authorities and white privilege by too many citizens who don’t want to be bothered by the inequality inherent in our society because they’ve got theirs. That’s why we don’t see white people and their supporters marching down Plymouth Avenue crying that white lives matter. How absurd would that be? There is a just cause here and you seem to dismiss the cause because of the tactics.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 12:59 pm.

        No mind reading required

        My statements are derived from direct statement made by demonstrators and their representative, no mind reading involved.

        As for the ROTC and Vietnam, I don’t have to imagine, this actually happened. Again, I don’t know why you guys have a such a hard time with this, but the MOA is PRIVATE property, the U is not. The charges occupiers faced during the Vietnam War and again in later years during Reagan’s adventures in Central America, was failure to follow lawful orders to disperse and leave the building. Same as those arrested during the demonstrations a few years at the republican national convention in St. Paul. Some demonstrators were charged, some had their charges dropped, some paid fines whatever. Look, there is no principle of equivalency in American Jurisprudence. Police, Judges, and Prosecutors have some discretion. Just because they issue speeding to tickets to some speeders but not all speeders, or drop some charges but not all charges, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to trespass and have a demonstration at the MOA and walk away. The MOA demonstrators are being treated exactly the same way other demonstrators have been treated historically. People are arrested, charged, and convicted.

        If you’re looking for valid comparison look at the Honywell Project demonstrations in the 80s, and the subsequent Alliant Tech demonstrations for years over in Hopkins:

        However, the point of the Honeywell project was to trespass, get arrested, and have a trial. These guys seem to their entitled to trespass, and not get arrested OR be prosecuted.

        As for the reparations, this is a somewhat new twist, we’ll see how it plays out, but it’s not unprecedented, especially in recent years with small guvmint budget cuts.

        At any rate, these demonstrators have absolutely no one but themselves to blame. They made their choices and choices come with consequences. They were clearly warned.

        Yeah, racial profiling and prejudice exist and are a major problem in American. How was getting arrested for trespassing at the MOA supposed to change that?

        • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/04/2015 - 02:21 pm.

          it isn’t the trespassing charge I object to…

          it is going after them to recover money to pay for the police presence and for the theoretical “losses” that the stores may have experienced. What’s a trespassing fine, Paul? Fifty bucks? How many thousands of dollars will they try to squeeze out of these people to pay for the cops and the stores. That is what I object to and that is what is selective and wrong in this case. And how many thousands of dollars of court and lawyer time will they spend to collect their fifty bucks?

          Getting arrested for trespassing is good for the cause in that it keeps the cause in the news at the small cost of a trespassing fine. All the other parts of the punishment are way overkill. And that is the part that you haven’t addressed in your response to me.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 03:07 pm.

            Fifty bucks?

            Well, we’ll see. I suspect if they pursue “costs” they’ll be talking about a lot more than $50.00. I don’t necessarily disagree with you, maybe it is excessive, but you pay your money you take your chances in this world, if they go for it they go for it, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

            Yeah, getting arrested for trespassing is supposed to put and keep a cause in the news… so why then complain about being arrested and charged? There just seems to be this cake and eating thing going on here. You want the coverage that goes along with a big civil disobedience in the countries biggest mall but you don’t want the consequences that buy that coverage? (not “you”, I’m speaking figuratively).

    • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/04/2015 - 12:46 pm.


      While I believe the decision by the state supreme court was wrong, and that the MOA qualifies as a town square, and therefore First Amendment protection, the court ruled otherwise. No problem there.

      These young people knew perfectly well there would be consequences for their actions, and seemingly will accept punishment if convicted; their beef it seems, is why the prosecutor would try them in the first place. It was peaceful, it was calm, and everyone at the mall got to spend as much money as they wanted, but, their actions so infuriated the pearl clutchers everywhere that something had to be done, to teach these scofflaws a lesson.

      Why the MOA? Because of it’s prominence in the state. 44 million people go their every year, so if you’re going to make a statement, this would be the place to do it. Even those who were unable to make the 1965 civil rights march on the Mall in Washington, still had a reason to support the cause, much like the kids at the MOA. They do not have to be witness to every injustice to be angered about that injustice. Because you think that support is silly, is irrelevant.

      The prosecutor has discretion, and in this case, I hope she uses it wisely, and not pander to the hard liners who only want to see these kids go to jail (although I doubt these charges would result in actual jail time, more like a fine or talking to other kids about making the right decisions in life, and not pissing off the white people who are shopping).

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 02:06 pm.


        ” why the prosecutor would try them in the first place. It was peaceful, it was calm, and everyone at the mall got to spend as much money as they wanted, ”

        This is no defense. Just because you’re speeding on a deserted highway putting absolutely no one at risk, or your dog isn’t bothering anyone when it’s off leash in a park, you don’t get to complain about being ticketed. You don’t get to break the law and then claim the law doesn’t apply to you because you weren’t bothering anyone, that’s not the point, our laws aren’t laws… unless no one complains. Again, this is settled law. Whether or not your “hurting” anything doesn’t matter, if the property owner asks you to leave, you have to leave.

        And again with the comparison between a privately owned mall and a public space? The Mall in Washington DC is a public space sitting the middle of the very seat of the Nations power structure and you’re comparing it to a shopping center in Bloomington? Seriously?

        • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/04/2015 - 02:55 pm.

          Point missed

          “And again with the comparison between a privately owned mall and a public space? The Mall in Washington DC is a public space sitting the middle of the very seat of the Nations power structure and you’re comparing it to a shopping center in Bloomington? Seriously?”

          You kinda missed the point, which was not comparing the two sites, but the purpose for the protest.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 03:32 pm.

            The point?

            The purpose of the protest is not in dispute. Every protest or demonstration has a reason. You can argue that your reason is better than everyone else’s if you want, good luck with that. The point is that the law doesn’t stop applying to you because you think you’ve got a good reason to protest. You can’t grant yourself immunity by choosing a legitimate cause.

            The Bloomington Prosecutor actually made this point in her response, she simply pointed out that it’s not her job to takes sides in causes or demonstrations, it’s not her job to tacitly endorse one cause or another, her job is to enforce the law. I don’t know why anyone would expect anything else?

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 05:03 pm.


    The most likely outcome here is that these defendants will plead out. If they really don’ wan’t to pay the highest price here the last thing they want to do is go to trial. My guess is that if the prosecutor can get guilty pleas in exchange for some fines community service or something she’ll conclude that she’s made her point, and she will have made her point.

    One thing that hasn’t been discussed here as far as I know is the fact that these misdemeanor convictions aren’t the badge of honor they used to be, they can really mess you up. Employers now run routine background checks and those convictions will pop up and mess with you. That’s no reason to drop these charges, but it’s all the more reason to think twice about getting yourself arrested. I think the fact that authorities issued multiple warnings become a critical factor here. In fact, I think one of the defendants is a lawyer and law school professor, if that’s the case a misdemeanor conviction might cut a little deeper in that case.

  11. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/04/2015 - 05:04 pm.

    Jail time – a little perspective

    Former General David Petraeus just reached a plea deal, one that will not include any jail time for sharing highly classified documents (during war time) with his girlfriend, although he does cop to a misdemeanor which comes with a full two years of probation ( a full two years, man, how will he cope).
    Some on this page it appears, believe the protesters deserve a harsher penalty for peacefully although illegally protesting, than someone who puts the county at risk sharing classified documents with their lover – if that wasn’t so pathetic, it would be sort of funny.

  12. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/04/2015 - 06:58 pm.

    white traitor equals…

    black trespasser. Talk about your white privilege! And as Paul points out above, the protesters employment prospects may suffer. Doubt Petraeus’ speaking fees will suffer. God bless America!

  13. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 03/04/2015 - 07:59 pm.

    Still no evidence

    Mr. Nelson, this report was issued yesterday and has nothing to do with specific case of Michael Brown shooting; in fact, if found no evidence that there was any wrongdoing committed at that time. My question was specifically about the evidence of racial discrimination and excessive force being used during Michael Brown incident so you in fact did not answer my question (actually, either of them). People closing highways in Minneapolis did not read this report.

    Mr. Schletzer, I would guess that if you intentionally create a traffic jam on private road like Florida Turnpike you may be charged for lost revenue. And you said that the racial discrimination by some police is a bigger wrong than trespassing. Is it bigger than looting? Also, the article was not about unfairness of charging trespassers fro lost business; it was actually two-prong: that was the right thing to do and, at the same time, that the charges should be dropped. Not very logical…

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/05/2015 - 07:12 am.


      And how would you define lost revenue. A person would have to quantify exactly what was lost and prove that the person causing the jam was directly responsible. In most legal situations that would be extremely hard to prove. Remember the presumption of innocence which most of the complainers in this thread seem to forget.

      And yes I consider racial discrimination and the resulting behaviors to be worse than looting. Because in an environment as documented in Ferguson every police shooting is suspect as a murder because there is no trust in the police. A society with no trust in authorities is a society in chaos. Maybe there was no provable evidence that the cop in Ferguson acted inappropriately but with all the surrounding evidence of discrimination by that department it sure stinks.

      Happy, employed, contented people don’t riot. Race riots like the one in Ferguson and all the ones in the 60s all across America and many others were encouraged my an unfair society where people’s opportunities were limited because of the color of there skin. Maybe the rioters in Ferguson hadn’t read the report of all the unfair, immoral tactics by the cops there but they had experienced those things directly. I’m not excusing and approving of the rioting and looting but I understand it and I believe it followed the behavior of city officials and cops and was partially caused by that.

      What bothers me in this thread is all the people, many of them who usually produce pretty enlightened comments, who quibble about minor things like inconvenient shopping experiences and complaints by the trespassers and their supporters, but ignore the more important context of an unfair society and the effects of 200 years of misery and frustration and unfairness. White privilege is real. I challenge any white person to claim that their position in life would be the same if they had been born black and poor. I know I’d be lucky to be alive in that case. Please try to put yourself in the shoes of someone coming from generations of poverty and lack of opportunity and see how hard it is to rise above it. Have you risen above where your parents were economically and educationally and if so how far?

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 03/05/2015 - 08:59 pm.

        Mr. Schletzer, I did not say you would be found guilty for lost revenue if your stall the highway; I said you would be charged with that and then the court will decide. This article argues that trespassers should not be even charged…

        Now I want to understand your point of view. You said that the racial discrimination by some police is a bigger wrong than trespassing and based on your comments I can conclude that you do find the trespassing justifiable on this ground. OK, so I asked you about looting to which you replied that you find “racial discrimination and the resulting behaviors to be worse than looting.” So logically I can conclude that you do condone looting under these circumstances. But then you said that you are “…not excusing and approving of the rioting and looting.” So I am confused…

        Now, I agree with you that “happy, employed, contented people don’t riot.” However, it doesn’t mean that all unhappy unemployed people do riot, does it? And the reason people are unemployed should also be analyzed. Interestingly, when facts were presented that Officer Wilson acted adequately in that situation, many people questioned the facts; they also later questioned the white prosecutor. Why don’t people now question this report on racism in Ferguson? It is done by Eric Holder who definitely has a reason to find racism there (not because he is black but because of his convictions). They uncovered 7 racial jokes in a department of over 50 people – does it make all of them racists?

        You also challenge white people to “claim that their position in life would be the same if they had been born black and poor.” Actually I was very poor and my whiteness did not help me a bit while my foreign accent was an obstacle… And if I agree that being poor is usually an obstacle (that can be overcome, by the way), being black is not. And I do know people personally who got way above where their parents were…

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/04/2015 - 09:15 pm.

    Oh please….

    Patraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, not treason, he was never charged with treason, and he’s not being sentenced for a felony. His sentence is a $40,000 fine and two years probation and maybe some other stuff. We don’t yet know what kind’s of penalties these MOA 11 will face. The only perspective this provides is that a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/05/2015 - 08:46 am.

      kid gloves for the general

      He gets a misdemeanor for sharing a war plan during a war with an unauthorized person who could have done anything she wanted with it. How is that different from Snowdon other than the fact that he reveal documents for a moral purpose and Petraeus did it for his girl friend? The only perspective this provides is it helps me see how you think there is a moral equivalent between the huge breach of national security done by the general and the bad shopping days incurred that day at the MOA. What he pled guilty to is pretty minor compared to what he did. But you see these basically powerless protesters putting themselves on the line for a principal being equally wrong with a guy who violated national security during a war at the risk of American lives so he could curry favor with his girl friend. In one case the government doesn’t want the spectacle of a trial so they settle for a minor conviction; in the other case the government wants a spectacle so they can make an example of a handful of powerless protestors.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/05/2015 - 08:55 am.


        I see a guy who thinks a misdemeanor is treason when a general does it. And I see a general who’s pleaded guilty, and trespassers who seem to think they’re entitled to ignore the law and disrupt other people’s lives without consequence.

        Look, you can try to make a federal case out of mall trespassing if you want… good luck. A misdemeanor is a misdemeanor whether committed by a general or a mall trespasser.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/05/2015 - 09:30 am.

    Look, just to be clear..

    I personally hate that frickin Mall. I’ve been there less than a dozen times since it opened. And I’m generally supportive of any attempt to challenge injustice and inequality as long as it’s not violent.

    My complaint about this demonstration is that it was ill considered and poorly planned. You’d think no one anywhere ever mounted a demonstration or protest against any kind of injustice or outrage.

    All challenges to any status quo face the problem of establishing legitimacy. This particular “movement” seems to be having more credibility issues than others for a variety of reasons.

    I think one reason this demonstration fails is the fuzzy messaging. Sure, disruptive protests can be effective challenges to the status quo, but these guys can’t make up their minds whether or not their protest was or even was supposed to be disruptive. On one hand they justify their selection of the Mall as an appropriate place to disrupt business as usual. But when they get arrested and charged they suddenly claim that there weren’t being or trying to be disruptive? You can’t have it both ways.

    So you say well, maybe it was disruptive but it wasn’t THAT disruptive. OK, so your saying this was SUPPOSED to be weak and ineffective protest? You’re challenging racism in America… but just a little… not enough to get arrested for?

    Sure, social justice requires some social disruption on occasion. Nevertheless you pay a price for deliberately disrupting other peoples lives when you live in a community. The idea that you can disrupt other people’s live’s or business with cavalier disregard is sociopathology pretending to be social justice. That bird just don’t fly in this town.

    Ultimately movements for change succeed when the community tolerates the disruptions, and comes to support the cause.

    In the end the practical effect of all of this has been to focus attention on the protesters rather than the subject of protest. It looks to me like they damaged their credibility and further alienated the community. They’ve provoked a backlash that has effectively silenced the cry for justice and replaced it with a cry for entitlement. Instead of 100 signatures demanding an end to racial profiling we have a 100 signatures demanding that trespassers be set free.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/06/2015 - 11:01 am.

    Getting back to disruption..

    I fear I may have hijacked the thread to some extent, this isn’t just about the MOA.

    While disruptive protests certainly have a place and long tradition in our culture, there are some basic considerations.

    To begin with, demonstrations in the dark, or at night, are not a good idea unless it’s a candle light vigil of some kind. The whole point of a demonstration is to capture attention, and promote support, not frighten people. The incident where a young woman got run over illustrates the problem with night or dusk demonstrations.

    I think shutting down the 35W freeway was an ill-considered protest. Freeways are not designed for easy exit and entry. That freeway is a major artery into downtown that can’t be easily bypassed if you get stuck on it. Downtown MPLS has one of if not the largest hospital and trauma center in the metro area. How do you know your not trapping a parent trying to get their asthmatic child to the emergency room in a traffic jam? Or some other health care worker trying to respond to medical emergency? The city, federal, and county court houses are also downtown. If someone misses a court hearing because of your shut down it could have serious repercussions on their life. These things are more than inconveniences. If you block a city street, or march around the court houses people can can find a way around. Blocking the freeway is a different story, and it’s more dangerous.

    I think the authorities should have arrested some of the 35W protesters. I can see why they didn’t arrest anyone on the freeway itself but when they got to the court house they could have made a few arrests. In hindsight I think the decision not to make any arrests was a mistake. I think the fact that they didn’t make any arrests encouraged organizers to conclude that such disruptions carried few if any consequences.

    Again, it’s not that I don’t “like” demonstrators and think they should be jailed. Community membership comes with certain responsibilities. It’s important to remember that though you may have a legitimate reason to disrupt the community, or other peoples lives, you don’t have RIGHT to do so. You want to disrupt enough to catch people’s attention, and hopefully their sympathy, but you don’t want to harm people or mess up their lives, unless you’re offering to repair the damage?

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/06/2015 - 03:35 pm.


      …WHAT damage?

      • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/06/2015 - 04:58 pm.


        the damage to the pearl clutchers and their delicate sensibilities, who are so incensed by these lawless kids that they have lost any attempt at rational thought – that damage.

        Oh, you meant actual damages – there aren’t any.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/10/2015 - 08:48 am.

    Just to clarify…

    I didn’t say that demonstrators actually did any damage to anyone, I don’t know if they did or not. My point is that they were careless regarding the potential for damage that their demonstrations could do. If you want the community to care about something, which is the whole point of a demonstration you can’t treat the community carelessly.

    “the damage to the pearl clutchers and their delicate sensibilities, who are so incensed by these lawless kids that they have lost any attempt at rational thought – that damage.”

    If you go back and look at the comments that are generally supportive of these demonstrators you see a lot of comment that look like this. Basically these are sarcastic responses that barely contain an outright hostility towards the community. Such hostility converts demonstrations (i.e. disruptions) in the community into assaults on the community. OK fine, assault the community with disruptions, but what’s the point? How do expect the community to respond? Do you really expect support and sympathy? What kind of attention do you think insults will attract?

    Look, you don’t disrupt the community and other people lives with a demonstration and then deny and or minimize the disruption by insulting the community you disrupted. Seriously, two scenarios: A) Community: “I was trying to get downtown to see my mother in intensive care and you blocked the freeway, I ended up spending 45 minutes parked on 35W”. Response: “Well I’m sorry I disrupted you’re suburban bubble of comfort but I’m trying to make a point here”. B: Community: “I was trying to get downtown…) Response: “I’m sorry, I realize I disrupted your day but I think I have a good reason for doing it. Let me explain why we blocked traffic…”

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but ALL I seen ever since these demonstrations began, is scenario “A”. Hint: Gandhi and MLK didn’t promote scenario “A”.

  18. Submitted by Daniel Olson on 03/10/2015 - 10:10 am.

    Paul, Did your MinnPost Account get hacked?

    I’ve enjoyed your frequently insightful comments over the years. It’s quite dismaying to hear your misguided arguments on this matter.

    Yes, we all know it’s settled law the MOA can ban protests. It doesn’t mean that we should accept that law as just.

    Clearly, the mall has in a large part replaced the town square. The civil disobediance of protesting BlackLivesMatter at a mall is directly on point. Replacing formerly public places with private ones is fundamental to the challenges of discrimination and police harrassment faced by black people. Ask Chris Lollie who was tased in a skyway while waiting to pick up his kids.

    Stores used to front public streets; now they front a private hallway in a mall. But this isn’t private property like your house or office. This is ‘private space” meant for the general public. The suburbs don’t have much in the way of public space. So freeways and shopping malls may have to pick up the slack for the sake of dissent and democracy.

    You could say the tactics were ineffective, but here we are still talking about this a dozen news cycles later. I don’t think that would have happened if protesters played nice and demonstrated in the desolate public parking lot Bloomington offered them.

    Yes, people are turned off by protests such as these. That always happens when protesters create tension by highllighting injustice. As MLK so elequently put it in the Letter from Birmingham jail:

    “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/10/2015 - 11:42 am.

      No hack

      People just disagree on occasion.

      This idea that mall’s have supplanted the town square comes up every so often, I don’t buy it. Over the years I’ve come to see such claims as shallow expressions of consumerism pretending to be civic proposals. I don’t think blurring the distinction between public spaces where people have constitutionally protected rights and free access, and private property where people “shop”, is good idea in the long run. I think the distinctions between consumers and citizens are blurry enough, just because you shop someplace doesn’t mean the bill of rights applies there.

      Now we can argue about whether or not free speech limits on privately owned property are “just” laws, but demonstrators don’t just get to declare that such laws are unjust. Obviously such declarations do not confer any immunity to such laws. Some people around here don’t seem to realize that “laws” can cut both ways. Do you want give anti-abortion demonstrators the “right” to occupy a family planning clinic?

      At any rate, if we’re going to have a conversation about converting privately owned malls into public Town Squares we need to invite the mall owners and people who are paying rent to do business in the mall to the conversation. Most people here seem to think we can just ignore them, but they’re citizens as well, and they’re members of our community. The argument that malls are functional equivalents of Town Squares has been made in the courts, and it’s lost. Don’t assume that everyone was just being silly, the proposition is in fact debatable. And although it may be debatable here on Minnpost, it’s SETTLED in MN courts, so I don’t know where you’re going with this debate or where you want to have it.

      I’ve grown up in a first ring suburb without an actual Town Square and I’m well aware of the effect that can have on a community. I would argue that we should go back to building actual Town Squares, actual public places, rather than try to pretend that privately owned monuments to consumerism are equivalent of Town Squares. The idea that Knowlwood or the West End is our Town Square is flat out depressing.

      In this particular case I still just can’t get my head around the idea of getting arrested for trespassing in the MOA in the first place. How is that a strike against racial profiling by the Police? Town Square? For what town? Bloomington? Does Bloomington have some special problem with racial profiling? I would have thought someplace like North MPLS would have a bigger problem but what do I know? Are you saying that the MOA is the Town Square for ALL of the metro area? That’s REALLY consumerism run amok in my book. We actually have public spaces that function as Town Squares in MPLS and St. Paul. St. Paul and MPLS look more like the center of the Twin Cities to me than does Bloomington. I mean if you’re looking for an actual Town Square… it’s not like you can find one in the Twin Cities.

      And again… what was this demonstration supposed to be about? The right to demonstrate in malls? The conversion of privately owned malls into public Town Square’s? Trespassing? Or is there something else people are trying to raise awareness of? Do we have a little mission creep here or what?

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/10/2015 - 03:55 pm.

        “And again… what was this demonstration supposed to be about?”

        You know exactly what this demonstration was about. This of course is aside from the fact that you seem to be over-emphasizing the comparison between modern quasi-public spaces and a town-hall or a town-square.

        The issue is the selective (subjective) application of objective laws against a racial minority that has long had it’s own quasi-public spaces taken from them (see: Rondo neighborhood) and that has long been getting ‘the book’ thrown at them.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/10/2015 - 10:19 pm.

          Actually no

          “The issue is the selective (subjective) application of objective laws against a racial minority that has long had it’s own quasi-public spaces taken from them (see: Rondo neighborhood) and that has long been getting ‘the book’ thrown at them.”

          Actually John, that wasn’t the point of the demonstration. The issue being protested was disproportionate killings, arrests, and harassment of black Americans by an overly militarized and racially bias police regime. The demonstration was NOT about the loss of places to demonstrate. Although I can see where you might get confused… kinda my point in fact.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/11/2015 - 09:04 am.

      Nothing to brag about

      “You could say the tactics were ineffective, but here we are still talking about this a dozen news cycles later. I don’t think that would have happened if protesters played nice and demonstrated in the desolate public parking lot Bloomington offered them.”

      We’re still talking, but not about any important issues. Instead of talking about our racist and violence prone police regime, we’re talking about trespassing at the MOA. Even if we agreed that trespassing laws are “unjust”, do you really think getting arrested for trespassing at the MOA is comparable to being choked to death on the streets of NY city for selling cigarettes or being shot to death on an L.A. sidewalk for being homeless? Seriously? THIS is the conversation you want to have? You think the BIG problem black Americans are facing is that they can’t demonstrate in a shopping mall without getting arrested for trespassing? Seriously?

      The fact that we’re talking about this is NOT a victory for the “cause”.

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