Charge us, too.
That’s what a growing list of clergy is telling Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson and Mall of America administrators. Johnson says she expect to charge organizers of a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
The clergy are upset that the city would single out three or four organizers when so many people participated. They are also upset that mall administrators assumed that the peaceful protest could turn violent and brought in a large security and police presence, something the mall did not do for a cancer memorial event that drew about 7,000 people.
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“We were shocked and dismayed to see that the Mall of America did not believe the peaceful intentions of the peaceful gathering. We were stunned to see police in riot gear and extra law enforcement including state troopers present,” said the letter.
“In early December, over 7000 people filled the same Rotunda in memory of one who died too soon to cancer, to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Apparently there was no strong police presence, they were not met with police in riot gear, and no extra law enforcement officials (were) called in. We, too, gathered to remember untimely deaths of unarmed black men and boys and to raise awareness of police brutality.
“For reasons that are unclear to us, the Mall chose to respond to this second gathering in a completely different fashion, apparently presuming the worst of those who attended.”
Mall officials and Bloomington police had approached the event organizers several days in advance, asking them not to hold the event in the mall because it was private property and offering a nearby parking lot as an alternative.
The protest was part of a larger nationwide protest against police violence against black men.
When the protest began on Saturday, officers locked down about 80 stores and several mall entrances. Business at stores near the rotunda (where the protest was held) came to a halt for about two hours.
Bloomington City Attorney Johnson said she is waiting for estimates, but the cost of overtime put in by police and the revenue lost by stores could be “staggering,” and she wants the protest organizers to pay.
Full text of the letter
Dear Sandra Johnson and Mall of America administration,
We are clergy members of many faiths who attended the peaceful gathering at the Mall of America on December 20, 2014 with #Blacklivesmatter. We attended this event with hundreds of members of our respective religious organizations and congregations. We attended with our children, our spouses, and our friends.
We went, in this busy holiday season, because we felt a religious and moral imperative to do so. The lives and deaths of black people matter to us. God calls us to stand with those who are dismissed, denigrated, and destroyed. We gathered in this season of peace and hope to lift our voices and pray for a day when people of color are not targeted by the police because of the color of their skin.
We were promised a safe, family-friendly, non-violent action and that is precisely what we experienced. While the gathered crowd sang, grieved, and remembered the dead, we prayed for safety for all, including the police, and we prayed for a day when the killing of unarmed black men and boys would end.
We were shocked and dismayed to see that the Mall of America did not believe the peaceful intentions of the peaceful gathering. We were stunned to see police in riot gear and extra law enforcement including state troopers present.
Many of us had made a day of it at the Mall, shopping and eating lunch and planning for more of the same after the witness event, but this was not possible with the Mall locked down. It is unfortunate that the Mall of America chose to spend so much money on additional security and law enforcement officials. It appears that you presumed that because we care about violence against unarmed black people, the event itself was going to be violent. This was not the case.
In early December, over 7000 people filled the same Rotunda in memory of one who died too soon to cancer, to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Apparently there was no strong police presence, they were not met with police in riot gear, and no extra law enforcement officials called in. We, too, gathered to remember untimely deaths of unarmed black men and boys and to raise awareness of police brutality.
For reasons that are unclear to us, the Mall chose to respond to this second gathering in a completely different fashion, apparently presuming the worst of those who attended.
As far as we know, no physical damage was done to person or property at either event held at Mall of America. Likewise, as far as we know, no charges were brought against the planners of the cancer awareness-raising event.
We are disappointed they would single out 3 or 4 young organizers of this peaceful demonstration. We find that to be disturbing and patently unfair given that thousands played a role in ensuring the success and safety in this nonviolent peaceful protest. If your office plans to charge young organizers of this incredible peaceful protest then we demand that you charge us too because we all played a role in the success of this peaceful event.
Here are the names below and we demand to be charged right along with the young organizers of Black Lives Matter. We also “conspired” to make this peaceful demonstration a success.
We encourage you to stop this attack on courageous young leaders. And refrain from using public money to pursue any case or file charges against the perceived organizers of this peaceful gathering, which was meant to make our community a better place for all people.
In faith, #chargeustoo
Rev. Myron Andes
Pastor Todd Bratulich, Community Mission and Engagement
Pastor Danny Givens, Jr.
Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs
Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs
Lena K. Gardner
Rev. Karen Hering
Rev. KP Hong
Rev. Michael A. Hotz, Associate Pastor of Care and Outreach
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz
Rev. Ruth MacKenzie
Nekima Levy-Pounds, Esq.
Elizabeth A. Oppenheimer
Rev. Meg Riley
Rev. Victoria Safford
Rev. Kent Hemmen Saleska
Rev. Justin Schroeder
Pastor Grant Stevensen
Rev. Luke Stevens-Royer
Pastor Steve Sylvester
Rev. Elaine Aron Tenbrink
Rev. Kate Tucker
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel
attended in spirit, #chargeustoo
Rev. Jen Crow
Rev. Javen Swanson
Rev. Bonnie Wilcox
Eric S. Fought
This is a growing list.
This open letter was sent to City Attorney Sandra Johnson and MOA administration on Dec. 24, 2014 and was put together by a group of concerned faith leaders and clergy that came together to support the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis movement, along with thousands of other individuals.