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Media coverage of Black Lives Matter arrests at MOA hasn’t reflected complexity of the issues

Protesters came to the Mall with the intention of drawing as many TV cameras as possible by causing as much disruption as possible.

The recent coverage of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) arrests at the Mall of America has ranged from sympathetic opinion pieces to news coverage that reads like a cheering section. But this is a complex issue, and the notion of who is right and who is wrong is not cut and dried.

Council Member Tim Busse

First and foremost, Bloomington city attorney Sandra Johnson is not the villain. While it’s convenient for Black Lives Matter to put a face on a villain, to compare Sandra to Bull Connor, as some have done, is belligerent and offensive. Our city attorney is simply doing what she was hired to do: uphold the laws of the city of Bloomington. A city prosecutor must be immune from outside pressure. If she picks favorites or declines to pursue charges because a protest is deemed by some as “just,” she sets the entire system up for failure. How would the morality of the next fur protest or right-to-life demonstration be decided? There’s a reason Lady Justice wears a blindfold. 

The Mall of America is not in the wrong either.

The Mall has never stood in the way of the goals of Black Lives Matter. There are no examples of hiring discrimination or claims of black shoppers being denied service. Mall security is not accused of harassment or excessive force against the many people of color who frequent the Mall. Instead, protesters came to the Mall with the intention of drawing as many TV cameras as possible by causing as much disruption as possible.

As a Bloomington City Council member standing up for the Mall, I’m not endorsing “profits over people.” I’m simply supporting a Bloomington business in the same way I’d support Bobby and Steve’s, Toro, or Donaldson.

The Bloomington police are also not in the wrong.

As with the city attorney’s office, the Bloomington police did exactly what they are supposed to do: Serve and protect. In the days leading up to the protest, Bloomington police reached out to Black Lives Matter organizers, told them the planned protest at MOA was illegal, and offered an alternative site. Unfortunately BLM had no interest in cooperating. In situations like this, overpreparing for potential problems is a much better alternative than underpreparing.

Compare the BLM protest to the Vikings/Washington protest in November at TCF Bank Stadium. In my professional role at the University of Minnesota, I was part of a group that included university officials, and police leadership from the University, Minneapolis and Metro Transit police. Before the event, we worked together with the Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media to establish ground rules, determine march routes, agree on locations, and provide necessary security. The result was a hugely successful protest that received national attention. Not one person was arrested that day. 

Finally, Black Lives Matter is not in the wrong either.

Racial inequality in America remains a very real problem. Far too many young black men die from gunfire and it needs to stop. Graduation rates of students of color in Minnesota are a national embarrassment that we need to address. I agree with those goals — if in fact those are the goals of Black Lives Matter. BLM leaders have allowed the Mall protest and the subsequent fallout to hijack their critically important messages. Why are we wasting our time discussing whether or not the Mall of America should be considered a public square?

While the notion of right or wrong can be a moving target, what is legal or illegal is not.

Like it or not, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled more than two decades ago that the Mall of America is private property. Like any private property owner, the Mall has the right to determine how its property is used. It has never permitted protests or demonstrations, and it reserves the right to choose the musical acts, events and other activities it allows. Saying no to the Black Lives Matter protest was entirely consistent with the Mall’s history and entirely within its rights.

Black Lives Matters protesters broke the law in a very public, defiant way. They should be held accountable.

Tim Busse is a member of the Bloomington City Council.

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Comments (57)

  1. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/16/2015 - 04:44 pm.

    Swing and a miss!

    Of course the mall and the Bloomington city attorney and the cops aren’t wrong. How could a Bloomington city council member say anything else and not get shunned. And BLM isn’t wrong because “Far too many young black men die from gunfire and it needs to stop,” which is code for black people shooting black people. The protests started because cops are shooting black people, cops are tasing innocent black men in the skyway, cops are choking guys selling cigarettes, cops are arresting black people for minor crimes just to harass them because they don’t trust or like them, crimes like driving while black or standing on the sidewalk while black. That is why the protest happened, not because of low graduation rates. And that is why the protest had to happen in a public place, because it is in public places that black people are being killed and harassed. He talks about the mall being within its rights as if a thing has rights. What about all the black people who are losing their rights every time a cop stops and frisks them because he doesn’t like their looks?

  2. Submitted by Richard Molby on 03/16/2015 - 05:43 pm.

    Good Grief

    Here’s how this reads: all protesters should be polite and not rock the boat. Oh, and black folks? Y’all’d be much better off if you just behaved like polite white folks. Or like those nice native folks from that other protest.

    And comparing this to the protest at the TCF stadium is ridiculous. There is a ton of public property around the stadium where protesters could be “guided” to. There is none inside the MOA.

    Why protest inside MOA other than some other Bloomington location? Is that even a serious question? You protest where you can reach the most people. Yes, BLM organizers were warned, yes they knew the risks and consequences. And, yes, the city attorney needs to do her job. But don’t serve up this hotdish of passive agressive, patronizing platitudes with a white priveledge sauce and expect us to politely swallow it.

  3. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 03/16/2015 - 06:06 pm.

    Too often….

    it is overlooked that the number one killer of black males is black males. The black community needs to own up to it as does the guilt ridden self loathing white liberal community. Both entities need to quit blaming firearms for the problem and own up to it.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/17/2015 - 08:55 am.

      Actually,

      the #1 killer of black males is heart disease. But I digress.

      Violence is violence, and murder is murder, whatever race you are. The real problem here is the selective application of laws and police force, applied with a racial animus towards the black population.

      If the police force was selectively targeting any ethnic/racial/religious group, this would be a problem. As is, both the police AND the courts are used as a cudgel to beat down and fleece black Americans, for their own enrichment.

      Perhaps we can all heed the better angels of our nature, realize that the black community has a legitimate, long-standing, and oft-dismissed grievance, ACKNOWLEDGE it, and then work together towards better solutions, instead of blaming black people and white liberals for everything.

  4. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/16/2015 - 06:10 pm.

    Prosecutorial discretion

    Maybe the author has heard of it. The Bloomington city attorney would be well within her rights to forgo the charges, If she prosecuted every person charged with a crime, she would be busy for a long time. Which is why prosecutors have discretion to charge or not – but in her zeal to pander to the pearl clutchers so incensed by these protests, she is falling down and has become a joke. All it will take is a sympathetic jury to show the folly of her ways.

  5. Submitted by Mike Hicks on 03/16/2015 - 06:12 pm.

    Complexity

    I’m not sure if the title of this op-ed came from the author or an editor, but it doesn’t reflect the content. I’d say the nuances that have been left out of mainstream coverage tend to put the protesters in a bad light. People have had to turn to blogs and other online sources to get the other viewpoint. It’s hardly difficult to find people supporting the Mall’s position, and that of the city attorney.

    I believe there’s plenty of room in our legal system to accept the protest as an expression of free speech that does not justify the relatively heavy-handed approach the city has been taking. Yes, the mall is private property, but this is an issue where lives are lost every few days. It is a topic that is justifiably shoved into the faces of people who otherwise haven’t felt its effects.

    Malls have been able to seal themselves off from the realities of the world by hiding behind the privileges that come from being privately owned. Sometimes holes need to be punched through that fantasy.

    • Submitted by William Lindeke on 03/17/2015 - 07:58 am.

      I completely agree with Mr. Hicks

      Public space and protest rights ARE very complicated issues, and clearly someone is wrong in this case.

      There are many ways that our society attempts to police and regulate public space, which is always contested and must be the object of struggle. These range from ordinances to architecture to police brutality, and the outcome of these struggles have serious consequences for our health as a democracy and as a society. Celebrating Selma, as everyone is wont to do right now, is but one illustration of why these kinds of struggles are important. But the Mall of America’s attempt to quash dissent, the Saint Paul building owners and Metro Transit’s attempts to lock and control the downtown skyways, the Minneapolis police’s racist enforcement of vague “lurking” and “spitting” ordinances, and wealthy white suburban residents efforts to keep affordable housing out of their communities are all part of this same conversation. (Those are all stories from just the last week.)

      How our society accommodates dissent is a big deal. Pretending it’s simple does nobody any favors.

  6. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 03/16/2015 - 07:55 pm.

    Analogy

    Imagine a disease X kills 90 percent of a certain group of people and the rest of them die from disease Y. Wouldn’t it look silly if people would be protesting (including breaking the law) and demanding attention to disease Y rather than disease X?

    Of course, dropping the charges now will guarantee that this thing will happen again… On the other hand, if sympathetic jury is all it takes, then what is the problem?

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/16/2015 - 11:03 pm.

    Still don’t get it

    “And that is why the protest had to happen in a public place, because it is in public places that black people are being killed and harassed.”

    Exactly, THAT’S why the protest shouldn’t have been in mall, because the mall ISN’T A PUBLIC SPACE.

    “And comparing this to the protest at the TCF stadium is ridiculous. There is a ton of public property around the stadium where protesters could be “guided” to. There is none inside the MOA.”

    Yeah, there’s no public space inside the mall… again, that’s the point. What? No one knew that when they decided to protest there?

    “Malls have been able to seal themselves off from the realities of the world by hiding behind the privileges that come from being privately owned. Sometimes holes need to be punched through that fantasy.”

    The legality of private property is settled law, not private fantasy. Make up your mind. Was this demonstration about punching through bourgeoisie comfort in shopping malls, or was it about racial profiling and violence stemming from a militarized police regime and a racist institutions? Either way, when demonstrators break laws they get arrested, that’s what makes it civil disobedience. And when you get arrested you are subject to prosecution. If you don’t want to risk arrest and prosecution don’t do civil disobedience.

    By the way, the charge is a misdemeanor, hardly the “heaviest” hand the law has in it’s pockets. You’d think we Sacco and Vanzetti behind bars here on trumped up charges the way some people are going on.

  8. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/17/2015 - 08:20 am.

    It’s not just the trespassing charge…

    That would be fine, I think. That is the cost of civil disobedience. But the mall and the city have said they will attack the protesters economically, trying to recoup the cost of policing and some theoretical loss to the stores. That is the heaviest hand and I think it is immoral.

    The mall regularly sponsors things like appearances by boy bands and Christmas carol sing-alongs and other nonsense. I’m sure they require extra policing and from the videos I’ve seen it would be pretty hard to shop there with that stuff going on. The mall could have embraced this protest as a socially conscious thing to do, to show support for a large part of its customer base. They do that for caroling Christians and teen aged girls. That they chose not to shows me that there is at least an unconscious element of racism and white privilege there. I would love to hear a recording of the closed door discussions by mall people as they prepped for this protest. Would probably sound a little like a fraternity bus ride.

    Jim Crow was settled law, Paul, wasn’t it?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 10:54 am.

      Bill…

      You’re comparing trespassing at a shopping mall to Jim Crow? Seriously? Is THIS the big injustice in America today? Shopping malls are private property?

      As for the charges we’ll see what emerges, but I’ll tell you this, no ones going to ask YOU what your OK with and not OK with.

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/17/2015 - 11:30 am.

        Paul…

        …re-read his first paragraph.

        “It’s not just the trespassing charge… That would be fine, I think. That is the cost of civil disobedience.”

        then:

        “But the mall and the city have said they will attack the protesters economically, trying to recoup the cost of policing and some theoretical loss to the stores. That is the heaviest hand and I think it is immoral.”

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 12:53 pm.

          Johathan

          “”But the mall and the city have said they will attack the protesters economically, trying to recoup the cost of policing and some theoretical loss to the stores. That is the heaviest hand and I think it is immoral.”

          Yeah, I saw that, here’s the thing: I’ve seen this before. Prosecutors always issue scary threats of seeking the maximum penalty, and that’s practice has always applied to demonstrators as well. There’s two things to remember:

          1) The prosecutor doesn’t issue the sentence, the judge does that. The prosecutor can ask for the maximum allowed under the statute, but the judge has a lot of leeway in some cases.

          2) Such a threat would probably involve two separate trails, the criminal trial for trespassing, and a civil trial of some kind to collect alleged damages. The MOA may pursue civil cases, but it’s unlikely the city will opt for the expense of two trials, and I don’t think the city can cleanly roll both trials into one unless the statue allows it. But I’m not a lawyer so do take my advice on that.

          At any rate, these are all thing you take into consideration BEFORE you get yourself arrested. These folks should have known what they were doing was illegal, but the city went the extra mile in advance to make sure they knew. It’s absolutely predictable that having done that, the city would go the extra mile in prosecuting these folks. They didn’t just break the law, they defied a lawful warning. It’s still not a federal case, it’s still misdemeanor trespassing, but it carries penalties and your not going to get around that.

          The most likely outcome is a plea bargain of some kind. Financially what the demonstrators really have to worry about is whether or not the MOA decides to sue them.

          • Submitted by Doug Gray on 03/17/2015 - 02:17 pm.

            that’s a lot of ifs

            If the MOA and its minions at Bloomington City Hall are hoping for a plea bargain here I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed. Scores of demonstrators showed up for the first court appearance last week. I don’t see that going away, not until this reaches the state Supremes at least. (Personally, I’m waiting to see what they might think about a city prosecutor advising a private party on how to preserve evidence of Precrime, as Councilmen Busse says “she was hired to do” and would do to support Bloomington business “in the same way” as Bobby and Steve’s, Toro or Donaldson. Will a DNA sample be taken before filling up and/or purchasing a Mars bar?)

            And yes, “it’s still not a federal case”…not yet..

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 05:55 pm.

              You still don’t get it

              The mall and city aren’t the ones who need the plea bargain. This will never be a federal case. You can have scores of supporters, but they’re not the ones who go to jail.

              • Submitted by Doug Gray on 03/17/2015 - 10:44 pm.

                i guess i don’t

                The “most likely outcome” to the city attorney’s overcharging the protesters and threatening to make them pay for the expense of arresting them and giving them a trial “is a plea bargain of some kind,” but “the mall and the city aren’t the ones who need the plea bargain?” When you start arguing with yourself it may be time to take a breather.

  9. Submitted by Terry Beyl on 03/17/2015 - 08:24 am.

    Back in 1960….

    In 1960, four black students sat down at the lunch counter inside the Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina. The men were refused service from the segregated lunch counter. Following store policy, the lunch counter staff refused to serve the black men at the “whites only” counter and the store manager asked them to leave. The Woolworth company said the store would “abide by local custom” [see Greenboro sit-ins, Wikipedia].

    The Woolworth store, including the lunch counter, were private property. Would the Bloomington City Attorney bring charges against these black students, who were protesting racial injustice?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 10:58 am.

      You’d have a point…

      If black people were barred from shopping at the Mall of America. Or even if black people and black people only were barred from having demonstrations in the Mall.

      You guys keep trying to make a federal case out of a misdemeanor trespass charge and frankly the more you do that, the more absurd the conversation gets.

  10. Submitted by Brad James on 03/17/2015 - 08:48 am.

    All I know is that I have been actively telling people not to shop at MOA since the protest. I for one cannot stand still and let the purveyors of white dominance get their way 100% of the time.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/17/2015 - 09:00 am.

      Agreed

      I refuse to shop there, after this debacle. I was already leery of them with their history of racial profiling and their own little ham-handed police force.

      As a white man, I’ve never felt uncomfortable there… or anywhere, really, which is part of the problem.

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2015 - 09:10 am.

    Complexities

    This piece mostly describes what isn’t complex. So what are the complexities? For one thing, is the Mall of America with all it’s public subsidies, really the private space that old Supreme Court decision claimed it to be. That’s a pretty complicated issue, and one really at the heart of the matter.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 11:08 am.

      Not complicated at all

      “For one thing, is the Mall of America with all it’s public subsidies, really the private space that old Supreme Court decision claimed it to be.”

      Again, this settled law. People keep thinking that just because they shop somewhere, they’re entitled to protest there and disrupt business… this is simply not the case.

      Hiram, our sports arena’s are the most subsidized “private” structures in the state. Are you claiming that law preventing a mass demonstration that would shut down a Super Bowl, is “fuzzy”? Does the public have the right to march through the gates and shut down a game? Are we saying that just because you shop in a store, you have the right disrupt the stores business? Even if that store hasn’t actually done anything offensive?

      Furthermore, the relative private or public nature of malls isn’t the focus of Black Lives Matter is it? They’re not protesting because people can’t protest in malls. The movement is: “Black Lives Matter” not: “Black People Should Be Able to Protest in Shopping Malls”.

    • Submitted by Joe Musich on 03/17/2015 - 11:40 pm.

      As I understand it….

      the case that Bloomington and the MOA are is not setled law until it goes all the way to the SCOTUS. This was only the Mn Supreme Ct in action. I would glad contribute to a Kickstater or a goFundme to bring this to the only conclusion there can be. If MOA and Bloomington are limiting civil rights in a place granted public funds take the funds away.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 11:52 am.

    I don’t know…

    What we have here is a bunch of people who think that just because they shop someplace they own it… literally. Of course that’s wrong.

    Then we have another argument that public subsidies convert private property into public property despite the fact that we have settled law establishing otherwise. OK, if my subsidy makes me an owner of someone else’s property what kind of rights does that give me in a TIFF financed McDonalds, or Target store? And what kind of rights do I have in any of our stadiums or arenas? Can I be just as disruptive as I want to be during any game, do I have a right to be disruptive?

    Well, I’m glad we have so many courageous souls (if your definition of courage is a distinct unwillingness to be arrested and charged with trespassing) fighting the good fight for the civil rights outrage of our generation i.e. the private ownership of shopping malls.

    On the hand maybe this is merely a bizarre expression of consumerism pretending to be moral outrage. I mean after all, do you really think that just because you shop someplace means you own it?

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2015 - 11:54 am.

    Again, this settled law. Is

    Again, this settled law.

    Is that a reason for not unsettling it? The Mall of America, despite it’s claims now to be private, was eager enough to take the public’s money when it had a chance. In any event, that’s one of the complexities in the situation that the author alludes to.

    “Are you claiming that law preventing a mass demonstration that would shut down a Super Bowl, is “fuzzy”?”

    I don’t know that I am claiming anything here, just describing a complexity. And I don’t think demonstrators have any sort of first amendment right to be disruptive either in private or public spaces. While I am unsure about whether they should have a right to demonstrate in the mall, I am pretty sure they don’t have the right to shut it down. Back in the ’60s, demonstrators had the right to eat at lunch counters, not close them.

  14. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/17/2015 - 12:39 pm.

    A little digression

    Salon, today, March 17, has an excellent article about “white fragility”, which I see some of here. The author defines it as “as inability to handle the stress of conversations about race and racism” and how that stress is handled. I think I see that here every time the topic is Black Lives Matter protests: refusal to admit the legitimacy of the cause and focusing on the tactics only as a reason to complain.

    Paul, you often seem to miss my points. Above, Jonathan tried to get you on track with my point about the financial attacks versus the trespassing charge. But, yes, I do see this issue in a lineage that started with slavery, went through the reconstruction and then Jim Crow and then wound up here with “settled law” about what is and isn’t public or private space. I see that line very clearly and I wonder why others don’t.

    I think that when the mall opens itself up to other third party events like boy bands and Christmas carolers, they open themselves up to all reasonable third parties. Just as when a store opens for business they shouldn’t be able to chose the race or sexual orientation of its customers, although libertarians would disagree with that. It is funny in an ironic way that every time a skyway or mall cries “private property” there is some black person that they want to exclude or control

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 08:36 pm.

      By the way Hiram…

      The fact that public subsidies don’t buy the public any special rights or privileges in the stadiums and malls we build with them, is one of the reasons I’ve always apposed those big subsidies. You will recall in all those arguments you and I had about the stadium subsidies (you usually support them) one thing I constantly pointed out was the fact that while the public may build them, they don’t end up belonging to the public. I think anything the public builds should belong to the public, but that’s not how subsidies work as you well know.

  15. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/17/2015 - 01:22 pm.

    Right and wrong

    What is right about the whole issue is that no one was actually wrong. But what’s really wrong about this is the concept that protests should be convenient, polite, and disrupt as little as possible. That’s ridiculous. Unless protesters create a physical danger, disruption is the smartest tactic for protest. Otherwise, all they manage to do is waste the time of the protesters. Case in point: there was a protest at the TCF Stadium???

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 01:58 pm.

      The difference between at the TCF stadium

      The demonstration against Native American mascots was not civil disobedience, the MOA action was. This is why people got arrested at the MOA and not at TCF stadium.

      Now sure, you can disrupt and endanger as much as you want, but then don’t complain about being arrested since everyone knows the police arrest people who do that. And by the way, those arrests and time and trials and expense they provoke is part of the whole civil disobedience tactic. You don’t get the first part of civil disobedience without the getting the second part as well, and you don’t complain about the second part when it’s part and parcel of the first part. It’s a package deal.

      These people that want to make the claim that the MOA was some kind of big important uncivil disruption but then complain they is wasn’t disruptive enough to warrant arrest making an incoherent point. You can’t claim it was big courageous disruption and then whine about being arrested.

      Sometimes disrupting the community is a good idea but it’s not necessarily always the smartest tactic for demonstrators. If you provoke hostility and fear instead of sympathy and support you’re not doing any cause any good.

      • Submitted by Adam Miller on 03/17/2015 - 02:51 pm.

        Who is complaining about getting arrested?

        The complaints I’ve seen are about the decisions the prosecutor seems to be making about what the charges will be.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 08:22 pm.

          Originally there were some complaints about the arrests

          But you’re right, the issue now is primarily the charges. The thing is some people don’t seem to realize that when you get arrested, you don’t get to decide what the charges will be or what kind of penalty you pay. Others seem to be OK with the idea of being arrested, just not actually being charged with anything or having to pay a penalty, which is kind of the same thing as complaining about being arrested. And then yet others don’t object to the trespass charges and arrests per se, but think attempts to recoup some of the law enforcement costs are completely out of line.

          My point is that some people have obviously underestimated the likelihood and consequences of getting arrested and they may pay a price for having done so. Furthermore, no one had any business assuming that prosecutors would go light on these defendants, nor can anyone demand different charges or sentencing recommendations, that’s clearly the prosecutors decision. You get arrested, you take your chances, society has no interest in making arrests risk-free for criminals. Not that these are major criminals, but they were arrested and will be charged.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 08:51 pm.

          Actually…

          There have been these arguments that the mall is or should be considered a public space, or the equivalent of public squares. These arguments have claimed that the protesters are entitled to be there without being arrested just as they would be allowed to be in public places. Basically those arguments complain that no arrests should have been made, or should be made in the first place. Basically the claim is protesters at the MOA should be treated the same as the ones in front of the TCF Stadium, i.e. no arrests.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/17/2015 - 03:09 pm.

        Arrest, yeah

        But the argument has devolved into whether the protesters SHOULD HAVE protested at the MOA, not whether or not they had a legal right to do so without arrest. Yep, they risked arrest. I don’t even have a problem with the charges. I do have a problem with the suggestion that they should not have protested the way they did. It had the maximum impact.

        For what it’s worth, I didn’t know about the TCF stadium protest, nor would I have cared. Sports mascots are outside the realm of my concern. And, my position on the matter is the same as the ACLU–the use of such mascots is morally wrong but legally within the rights of the schools. That being said, objection over racist slurs is a noble cause, but I’m not even sure the issue is even close to relevant to what’s going on with Black Lives Matters. So…what? My point is that being all nice got exactly nowhere near my radar, let alone on it, and I’m probably not alone. And that’s how effective nice protest is, even if it warranted civil disobedience. The point of protest is to raise awareness, if not sympathy, not simply spend time in a group that agrees with your dissatisfaction of the status quo.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 05:57 pm.

          I disagree

          “I do have a problem with the suggestion that they should not have protested the way they did. It had the maximum impact.”

          I think it’s been the maximum diversion. No one is talking about racial disparity.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 03/18/2015 - 08:58 am.

            Except,

            this situation wouldn’t exist in the first place, if not FOR racial disparity. They wouldn’t be seeking remuneration from white protesters, mostly because they wouldn’t have overreacted and called out a bunch of extra police and closed stores for a bunch of white people protesting.

            We are still talking about racial disparity.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 01:25 pm.

    Here’s the thing…

    “I think that when the mall opens itself up to other third party events like boy bands and Christmas carolers, they open themselves up to all reasonable third parties. ”

    This is an expression of white privilege. You’re acting like what you “think” is a primary factor of some kind, it isn’t. This is settled law. I’m sorry but I’ve already explained what that means so I’m not going to do it again, suffice to say that laws don’t get unsettled simply because someone you sympathize with got arrested. There is a logical and rational difference between doing something on someone’s property with permission, and doing something without permission. You’re notion that letting someone do something in my front yard with my permission grants you the right do something else without my permission is simply incoherent. The Mall or the Vikings stadium are no different. Just because they may allow some group to walk for the cure, or have a book signing, doesn’t mean they are required to allow political demonstrations. When the Vikings or the MOA do allow events those participants are still required to follow certain rules of conduct. Unlawful demonstrations by definition defy rules of conduct, and as such can be prohibited. The property owner gets to decide what’s “reanable”, not you. That’s the law, and your not going to “unsettle” because you just found out about it… that’s not a good enough reason to challenge the finding.

    Now this is really interesting:

    “I think I see that here every time the topic is Black Lives Matter protests: refusal to admit the legitimacy of the cause and focusing on the tactics only as a reason to complain.”

    Absolutely, the problem is if you’re aiming that criticism at me, you’re aiming at the wrong person. I’m actually not the one hung up on technicalities and refusing to discuss racism here. I’m trying to move the conversation back on message. I’M not the one focusing arguing about trespassing laws and public ownership of malls… I’M the one who keeps saying that issue is settled… move on. All this talk about malls and public spaces is way way way off message, and yeah, it’s because apparently some people aren’t prepared to talk about the real issue which is racism. Even Mr. Busse in this article said: “let’s get back to the real issue”, but no, you guys want to pretend that public ownership of malls IS the REAL issue. Why is that?

    If your telling me you trace public ownership of shopping malls back to slavery, that’s just looks a rabbit hole to me. If you really want to talk about racism, why would you go there? I’m not the one who’s avoiding the real issue.

    Look, if you want to talk about racism, and the issues that BLM is SUPPOSED to be addressing absolutely completely without a doubt please please please let’s talk about that. But the fact is that demonstration wasn’t about finding a place to demonstrate or capturing shopping malls as public spaces, nor was it even about any kind racial complaint with the mall, so if you want to get back on message… please do so, I’m waiting.

  17. Submitted by Crystal Brakke on 03/17/2015 - 03:05 pm.

    With all due respect…

    …and understanding some points of your commentary, this line is the heart of the issue for me as a Black Lives Matter supporter:

    “While the notion of right or wrong can be a moving target, what is legal or illegal is not.”

    The City of Bloomington–and yes, Ms. Johnson–did have a choice as to whether or not to press charges. Cities, states, the U.S. government make decisions every day about when to charge citizens in a court of law and when not to. In this instance, I disagree with the judgment that has been demonstrated by city officials that charges were necessary (and am baffled by some of the more ludicrous charges that were filed, such as seeking restitution when it was the Mall–and city officials–who made the decision to close stores and heavily police a peaceful protest).

    At every turn, it seems as though the Mall and the City of Bloomington have elevated and escalated, and perhaps even antagonized, this situation on the one hand while proclaiming the virtues of Martin Luther King’s legacy of non-violent, peaceful protests at your January meeting on the other hand. I’m not sure that you can have it both ways, Councilman Busse.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/17/2015 - 04:35 pm.

      Good Post, Crystal

      The issue for me isn’t the trespassing charge, a minor “crime” that I think the protesters take responsibility for and I don’t think they want a plea agreement on that. I believe they think the public trial and all the publicity up till now are worth the normal penalty for trespassing. But the Mall and the City of Bloomington have escalated this into this financial assault and I don’t think those threats are morally defensible or legal right or fair. Also even if the city lost the civil case, it would win in the sense that it would probably bankrupt the protesters for their legal costs.

      Example to Paul who will no doubt misinterpret me. Suppose I’m speeding on the highway. A cop pulls me over and I can expect a ticket. That’s fair. But then suppose that because he doesn’t like that fact that I’m bald, he escalates the ticket. He tells me that 10 miles over the speed limit puts the public in danger so he tases me and confiscates my car and the city refuses to give the car back to me because I “used it as a weapon”. Now it is no longer fair. I knew the risks and costs of speeding but this new escalation is nothing I could have reasonably expect. IT IS THE ESCALATION BEYOND THE SIMPLE TRESPASSING TICKET THAT IS THE ISSUE.

  18. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/17/2015 - 03:41 pm.

    Can you imagine the Mall of America, if it were allowed to become or be perceived as some fake “public space” where this, that, and the other mass demonstration might be taking place at any time? Would you shop there? Neither would I.

    That’s their point. Those demonstrations must be nipped in the bud, or the MOA is a dead item. They’re protecting their business, on their property. Pure capitalism, unfiltered through politics. I don’t find this hard to understand.

    • Submitted by Crystal Brakke on 03/17/2015 - 04:55 pm.

      I’m not so sure…

      …consider that there are maybe 1-2 events per year that could even come close to qualifying as a “mass demonstration,” and that they rarely appear spontaneously without any notice whatsoever.

      I do understand the intent of your point (and that it’s exactly how the City and Mall are justifying their action) but I really don’t think the Mall is going to be turning into Occupy Wall Street anytime soon, regardless of what happens in this case.

      And for what it’s worth, I would shop at the Mall if there were demonstrations taking place. And until these charges are dropped, I won’t be shopping there again. I know people who were there during the Black Lives Matter protest that had no idea it was even happening. The place is massive and there was never any threat to the safety of demonstrators or officers, just as was the case when there were THOUSANDS of people congregating in the same space for the Clouds singalong.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 05:45 pm.

        This was completely predictable, and it was predicted.

        ” I really don’t think the Mall is going to be turning into Occupy Wall Street anytime soon, regardless of what happens in this case.”

        The owners of the mall have a legal and contractual obligation to control that space Crystal. Are you offering to take on any legal liability for anything problems arising from a political demonstrations? Are you guaranteeing the Mall owners that no big disruptive demonstrations will take place? It’s really not your problem or your responsibility is it? It’s also not your property, or space to lend out, regardless of your predictions which you cannot guarantee. Just because you shop there, doesn’t mean you own the place.

        Anyone who thought the city would forego prosecutions in this case was either not paying attention or was naive. You had established legal precedent, settled law, and multiple warnings. There’s no good reason on the planet for the mall, as a place of business, to embroil itself in any political issue, that’s just not going to happen. This mall has never allowed political protest and there’s really no good reason for them to start. It might even be a violation of their rental agreement with tenets if they were to allow political demonstrations. You think the mall owners are going to risk a lawsuit with a tenet in order to allow a political demonstration? Likewise that mall is a huge economic engine for the city of Bloomington. You really think they’re gong to ignore an attempt to disrupt it?

        Look, you don’t get to break the law and dictate the outcome.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/17/2015 - 06:37 pm.

      I don’t shop there now

      For the same reason–it’s crowded and obnoxious. At least I find value in the protest.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 07:55 pm.

    One thing to keep in mind

    As far as I know, none of the people who actually got arrested are speaking here, and it’s not a good idea to assume that people here speak for them. And as far as know none of the authors of any of these articles that have provoked so much debate are actually speaking for the folks who’ve been arrested.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/17/2015 - 08:28 pm.

    I’ve only shopped there once ever

    I’ve been to the mall maybe ten time since it opened, usually to take visitors who wanted to see it and a couple times on photography assignments. The only time I ever actually shopped there was to buy a some Bose speakers that no one else had in stock.

  21. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 03/17/2015 - 10:37 pm.

    Banging a really loud Drum

    Black Lives Matter is just another group trying to get national attention. There is nothing positive in their message. I was at their rally at Snelling and University and they said little more than “Look at me!” (paraphrasing)

    The do more harm than good to the black community.

    The more charges filed and the more sentences carried out for the MOA incident, the more attention they will get. But they will accomplish little if anything. This group is not MLK, it is just a few people wanting to bang a really loud drum.

  22. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 03/18/2015 - 07:34 am.

    Waste

    Putting politics aside, this is some of the worst legal analysis I have ever seen. The prosecutor has discretion on whether to charge, and given the merits (of charging the organizers as opposed to trespassers), cost and bad publicity, she would be well advised not to pursue it. The idea that she has no choice in the matter is an outright falsehood. She can and should be blamed for this. And when the charges get dismissed or they get acquitted, I hope the voters of Bloomington remember Counselmember Busse’s support for this money-wasting effort.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/18/2015 - 09:21 am.

      Well…

      This is the worst political analysis I have ever seen :). The fact is once you get outside the smallish echo chamber of supporters the public reaction to the local BLM protests has actually been rather hostile. One demonstrator actually got run over and they didn’t even bother press charges.

      That mall is a major economic engine for the city of Bloomington and people there don’t want it being disrupted, specially on the heels of a big recession. The fact is that most people don’t care what happens to these demonstrators and I think a majority, certainly in bloomington, and possible metro wide, actually support these arrests and prosecutions. If voters do remember this in the next elections cycle it will help not hurt those seeking re-election.

      This get us back to my real complaint. I say these demonstrations were poorly conceived because instead of raising consciousness about racism, they managed to provoke wide spread anger and hostility towards the demonstrators. Once that happens, and I’ve seen this before, and clearly you can see it happening now, the chasm between the larger community and the mentality of the demonstrators just grows wider and wider.

      The problem with the Mall protest is that it doesn’t make sense to most people. People simply cannot connect trespassing at the MOA with people getting shot by police in Ferguson. And in fact, the connection is nearly impossible to justify. Look at this and other related comment threads, whenever someone tries to explain the rationale for trespassing in the mall, the rational disintegrates into unrelated arguments about public space and subsidies and private property and malicious prosecution. You end up soooo far off message it’s not even funny.

      We’re having a big discussion about this but the fact is out in the real world nobody cares because they don’t sympathize with these demonstrators. Does anyone remember whatever happened to those Anarchists that got arrested before the RNC Convention?

      Some people seem to think that as long as you get into the news cycle you’ve accomplished something regardless of how much hostility, anger, or indifference you provoke. The truth is they don’t call it 15 minutes of fame for nothing. The idea that there’s going to be a boycott of some kind, or people will lose elections, or we’re crack open settle law, etc. etc. is simply grandiose thinking. What going to happen here is these folks will get convicted and sentenced and everyone will move on. Most people have already moved on.

      I’m not trying to poke people in the eye or be a jerk here. My point is let’s get back on message. We’ve had at least two incidents of black people being profiled and harassed by cops down in the Eagan Outlet Mall in the last week or so… if you want to talk about malls why aren’t we talking that? Since these guys got arrested at the mall something like 3 or 4 more unarmed black people have been killed by police in this country… can we talk about that?

  23. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/18/2015 - 01:34 pm.

    The question as to whether they were poorly conceived is different from questions relating to prosecutorial discretion, whether the law has been violated and whether any law as applied is constitutional. I tend to reserve judgment on all these issues, but that’s just me. I will say, they are the complicated issues here, and aren’t exactly the ones addressed in the original commentary. Subsequent events too, particularly the Justice Department reports, have also complicated our understanding of what happened in Ferguson.

  24. Submitted by Tony Webster on 03/18/2015 - 05:49 pm.

    Mall of America’s fake Facebook account

    Council Member Busse – you wrote that the Mall of America is not in the wrong, hasn’t discriminated, and isn’t accused of harassment. I’m wondering if your opinion still stands after news broke today that Mall security used a fake Facebook account (with a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote) to friend Black Lives Matter activists to monitor their friends-only posts and to turn those posts over to the Bloomington City Attorney to be used as evidence against them. The account primarily friended people of color. That certainly feels discriminatory, harassing, and just downright creepy to me. The City Attorney claims she wasn’t aware, yet the documents proving it came from her office. On top of that, City of Bloomington staff looked up the voter registration data of individuals expressing concern with the City’s decision to prosecute protesters. You don’t seem to acknowledge that. Many are calling the prosecution heavy-handed and not proportional to the alleged crimes, and you didn’t seem to speak to that either.

    • Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 03/18/2015 - 10:03 pm.

      Careful

      A fake FB account designed to get info from a group that vowed to disrupt the MOA may be immoral, but the fact that the contacts are black may have more to do with the group’s makeup.

      Careful throwing around words like discriminatory. What they did is not racist, just wrong.

      • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/19/2015 - 08:55 am.

        no reason to be careful here

        I think any harassment of black people by white people in positions of power is inherently racist in a society that still feels the effects of slavery and Jim Crow. Please don’t tell me that black people should “just get over it” as far as our history of oppression is concerned. It is a privilege white people enjoy to “get over it”, but black people today still don’t enjoy that privilege.

        • Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 03/19/2015 - 05:38 pm.

          ???

          Bill, no one said “Get over it.” Not sure where you got that from.

          It is difficult to comment on the rest of your comment because you are throwing racism in where there is none. It is only about a group of people that planned for weeks to deliberately break the law.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/19/2015 - 08:57 am.

        Immoral?

        Actually, I hate to say it but I don’t see why something like could be even classified as immoral or wrong? FB pages and accounts are not confidential or even really private spaces. We don’t really need to point that out do we? I don’t even think creating an alias is a violation of FB usage terms. Furthermore, when you openly announce your intent to break laws, even if it’s civil disobedience, you provide legal justification for police and even private security surveillance. No one needs a warrant of any kind to attend a meeting or join a FB page.

        For some reason it always surprises people to find out their group has been under surveillance or infiltrated by police informers. This should come as no surprise to anyone because it’s been standard practice for decades. The old joke in the anti-Vietnam groups used to be that you could always spot the police informants because they were ones who always wanted to blow something up.

        Sure, it’s deceptive, but deception in-and-of itself isn’t necessarily immoral or wrong. For instance when cops go undercover to root out drug dealers, or human traffickers, it may be deceptive but it’s not wrong.

        My complaint about police infiltration and informers is that it’s frequently a waste of resources since most groups don’t make that much of a secret about what they’re doing in the first place. Furthermore the so-called “intelligence” these agents provide is frequently quite dodgy and almost impossible to verify either before or after an event. For instance police informers warned that Earth First!ers locked in at the Hiawatha Reroute houses had weapons and booby traps when in fact they did not. You can never find out whether or not informants REALLY provided that bogus information or if officials are just CLAIMING they got information. Bogus information like that is typically an excuse for excessive force.

        But that’s not what happened here. Joining a FB page is cheap and easy surveillance. Don’t be surprised if some information starts emerging from warm bodies that were inserted into the group at some point.

        At any rate, if you’re involved in a group that demonstrating, or planning civil disobedience, you should assume that there are some informers around. Unless their actually wire tapping or opening mail or something they don’t need a judge to sign off on that. It may be silly, but it’s not necessarily immoral or wrong.

        • Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 03/19/2015 - 05:30 pm.

          Good Point.

          Good point Paul. I stand corrected. I agree with you that it was done in defense to an outside threat.

  25. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 03/19/2015 - 02:36 pm.

    “Black Lives Matters protesters broke the law…. They should be held accountable.”

    But they won’t be. They went there to be disruptive and that is exactly what they achieved.

  26. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 03/22/2015 - 01:01 am.

    Good companion for Jim Clark & George Wallace

    Mr. Busse is right up there as a companion for Jim Clark and George Wallace. Those storm troopers your city put into the mall are the 2015 equivalents of the bad old days of the south.
    Since this is “liberal” Minnessota – the Bloomington Police storm troopers did not attack the protestors- Bloomington is using prosecution (as did a number of southern states) to harrass people pushing for Civil Rights.
    Bloomington Mn will go down in history as being on the wrong side of history.
    Busse ought to read Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingtham Jail. It’s address to people like him.

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